Ray Stefanelli is the new vice president of online gaming at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
Stefanelli is a Lynchburg College graduate and New Jersey native. He has overseen several gaming segments during his three-decade career, including poker and online casino. He also has ties to the Hard Rock brand, serving as Seminole Gaming’s director of poker marketing in 2013.
“We are thrilled to welcome a 30-year industry professional like Ray back to the Hard Rock family,” said Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Atlantic City. “I am confident that Ray will continue to elevate our online gaming experience here in New Jersey, while playing an integral role in the expansion and development of the existing and future customer product with the Hard Rock Digital team.”
NJGS: Briefly tell us about your background and experience with online gaming.
Ray Stefanelli: I have been in the gaming and hospitality industry for over 30 years, starting at land-based properties, then working with gaming consulting firms such as KPMG Consulting and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I then moved into the online gaming space, working on the setup phase in New Jersey prior to 2013, before moving back to online operations full time in 2014. I am thrilled to be back working for Hard Rock, a globally recognized brand that has seen tremendous success, especially in the competitive Atlantic City market.
NJGS: New Jersey is home to the largest online gaming market in the U.S. Is there an opportunity to expand the Hard Rock online casino brand in NJ and how can it be done?
Ray Stefanelli: Hard Rock is one of the most globally recognized brands in the world and with the leadership team’s commitment to aligning Hard Rock Atlantic City and Hard Rock Online Casino, we have the unique ability to create parallel offerings between the two, providing customers with more access than ever before.
We are confident that whether they are a Hard Rock Online Casino customer, an on-property player, or both, their experience will be world-class and memorable.
NJGS: NJ online gamblers have a variety of options. What makes Hard Rock Online Casino unique and separates the brand from other online operators?
Ray Stefanelli: Hard Rock Online Casino stands out for many reasons, but most importantly the access and benefits customers have online and on property such as hotel and premiere headliner entertainment offers, award-winning food and beverage outlets, slot machines, table games, sports betting, and more.
Hard Rock Atlantic City has delivered on its promise to provide a diverse portfolio of enjoyable entertainment experiences for customers and online gaming will continue to be a great option for customers to enjoy a safe, secure, and hassle-free gaming experience.
NJGS: Hard Rock AC was the first to launch live online slots. How has that product been received by players and what is the future of live online slots?
Ray Stefanelli: Live Slots was a great way to illustrate to customers that Hard Rock Online Casino is progressive, authentic, and trustworthy. You can physically see your favorite slot machines as they are being played online and this has been a great way to transition to the full online experience.
Online gaming technology uses a random-number-generator to determine the outcome, the same technology used in a slot machine on the casino floor.
The customers love the ability to play their favorite games and Live Slots provides the opportunity to access them while providing a physical machine to confirm the veracity of online gaming.
NJGS: Online casinos have clearly benefited from sports betting in New Jersey. What steps can Hard Rock take to enhance its presence in the online sports betting space?
Ray Stefanelli: We understand the importance of online sports betting and the relationship it has with our online casino offering.
We will continue to offer sports betting, both retail and online for our customers, but will engage in a responsible manner. There are operators that won’t be profitable for years to come based on their strategy as it relates to going after sports market share at all costs. We will be responsible and continue to offer our customers the best online gaming experience, which will include online slots, table games, live dealer, and sports products.
We will also ensure we do this with integrity and with our key stakeholders considered, including our owners, customers, and team members.
NJGS: NJ is on pace to exceed $1 billion in annual online casino revenue. Does the market’s size surprise you and what are your expectations going forward?
Ray Stefanelli: The market size does not surprise me at all. With such [a] dense population and propensity to game, New Jersey continues to have strong performance in the online space.
Moving forward, I expect operators will move away from mass acquisition strategies and begin to focus on profitability and bottom-line results. Having said that, I am confident that our strategy is aligned with core business objectives.
Photo provided by Hard Rock Atlantic City