It was only a week ago that Hard Rock Atlantic City was beginning its home stretch toward a June 28 grand opening. Its debut was long-awaited along the Boardwalk. But one thing was missing.

After a New York Times story posted three days prior to opening day alluded to Hard Rock AC obtaining that missing piece, Tuesday’s news made it all but official: Hard Rock has a partner for sports betting.

Hard Rock AC inks deal with bet365

Correspondence posted on the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement website details a partnership between Hard Rock AC and bet365 Group to offer NJ sports betting.

Neither party has confirmed the deal publicly, but the correspondence notes that Hard Rock Atlantic City and bet365 both signed a letter of intent on June 19. The correspondence was signed by DGE Director David Rebuck on June 25.

The letter serves as a temporary approval for bet365, and it will remain valid until July 31 as the UK-based company obtains a license to operate in the Garden State.

Of course, it’s not clear how the relationship between Hard Rock and bet365 will work. Bet365 is a consumer-facing platform, so it may use the Hard Rock’s casino license to offer sports betting as an individually branded website/app, or a “skin.”

Meanwhile, the Hard Rock online casino is already up and running.

Bet365 coming to America

Good morning, my neighbors!

For the first time, bet365, a multibillion-dollar operation, will touch down on US soil. Though it will not be the first to jet across the pond to take advantage of legalized sports betting in New Jersey, as those honors go to William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair.

However, like William Hill (Monmouth Park, Ocean Resort Casino) and Betfair US (Meadowlands Racetrack), bet365 is looking to establish itself as a premier outfit in Garden State gambling. This brings three of the largest gaming companies in the world to New Jersey.

Mum was the word from Hard Rock AC

Even as the casino’s grand opening neared, Hard Rock AC officials remained tight-lipped on their sports betting aspirations.

There were hints dropped along the way, like this tidbit from president Matt Harkness while speaking with the Press of Atlantic City:

“We’re not opening with sports betting but it’s something we’re taking a very hard look at for the future. Right now, quite frankly, we’re just focused on the opening.”

Then there was the NYT story, published June 25, that had Hard Rock International chief executive Jim Allen setting the table for what came to be the bet365 partnership:

“As for tapping into sports gambling, Mr. Allen said the Hard Rock was preparing to announce a partnership with a company that would run a sports book in the new casino. He said he expected sports bets to provide a modest boost to the casino’s profits and to draw people in during big events like the Super Bowl.”

Still, the extravagant opening of Hard Rock Atlantic City came and went. The casino watched as the Boardwalk’s other newcomer, Ocean Resort, opened its William Hill sportsbook.

Now, it seems, Hard Rock AC is ready to join the NJ sports betting party.

The party rolls on for Hard Rock

Even during Hard Rock AC’s grand opening festivities, Allen maintained the poker face of all poker faces.

From a Q&A session with the press:

“While there has been a few sports betting windows open… we understand that the market is actually more favorable on a handheld device — or your smartphone, if you will.

“Nobody has that technology approved yet by the DGE. We are in that process, so we’ll be making some announcements probably sometime in the next 30 to 60 days as far as how we’re going to do that.”

Certainly, at the time of these comments, the partnership between Hard Rock AC and bet365 was locked in. Maybe he was preferring to keep the deal under wraps until every last detail was squared away. (“Oops,” the DGE probably says.)

Regardless of the smokescreens and misdirections, or how the end result will look, all that matters is that Hard Rock AC found a way to get connected in the sports betting market.

Call that the cherry on top of a $500 million renovation of the former Trump Taj Mahal that shines along the Boardwalk.

Grant Lucas

About

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.