Looking At The Long-Term Roles For Hard Rock And Ocean Resort In AC

Industry experts Rummy Pandit and Bob Ambrose offer their explanations as to why Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino are poised for success after strong opening-weekend revenue numbers.

Three days doesn’t make a lifetime.

But, in the case of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, they certainly created enough buzz to last until the end of the summer.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement’s June revenue numbers indicate that both casinos got off to a great start. When extrapolated out over a 30-day period, the two casinos would bring in more than $30 million a month.

Pandit: Great opening-weekend numbers are temporary

Lest one get too aggressive with predictions, though, it was a historic opening weekend in Atlantic City, the enthusiasm of which led to millions of dollars of revenue over the course of three days.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levinson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, spoke with NJGS about what he thinks will happen to those revenue numbers over the next few months.

Pandit told us gamblers will flock to a new casino because of the novelty — they want to see the new casino floor, the entertainment, and the hoopla that accompanies an opening.

However, over time, they’ll make a decision to return to their favorite casino or they’ll pledge their allegiance to Hard Rock or ORC.

Over time, it starts to settle down because people tend to settle into their preferences into which properties they want to be frequent and continue to be loyal to,” Pandit said. “At some point, they may like their other property better or they may like the new one.”

Predict the casinos’ futures with a grain of salt

During that time, it’s almost impossible to gauge the long-term effect that Hard Rock and ORC will have on the Atlantic City casino industry, said Bob Ambrose, a gaming consultant and adjunct professor of casino management at Farleigh Dickinson University.

Ambrose when on to note that people tend to be quick to draw long-term conclusions about a casino’s opening performance.

“There has always been a ‘rush to judgement’ when it comes to anything concerning an Atlantic City stakeholder or their new business model,” he told NJGS.

Regardless of how the revenue and successes play out in the future, this summer is a big opportunity for all the city’s casinos.

“Right now, it is the middle of the summer tourist season and everything is up for grabs,” Ambrose said. “It is an exciting time in A.C.”

Hard Rock, ORC catering to different clients

Pandit pointed out that what makes the Hard Rock and ORC properties so unique is that there’s a good chance they’ll draw patrons because of their brand association.

Hard Rock is an international icon with a devoted fan base, while ORC is a Category 3 hotel in the World of Hyatt loyalty program whose rewards nights cost what Hyatt rewards members would consider an affordable 12,000 loyalty points.

Because of this, Pandit said, he doesn’t see Hard Rock or ORC causing as much disruption in the market as one might expect.

At this point, it looks like both properties will bring in specific segments that haven’t been here before and, thuscollaboratively grow the market,” he said.

Growing the market is good news for the city’s seven other casinos. Not lost on the industry is the disastrous 2014 casino contraction, in which the market was not able to sustain 12 casinos. Five closed.

A bigger market means less competition for the existing customer base.

Hard Rock, ORC already winning

Measuring the success of these two casinos could be a purely revenue-based call for some. If the casinos consistently finish in the top-three for revenue, they’re a solid success.

However, Pandit warned against a simplistic view of casino success. Rather, he said, look at how a casino or casinos expand the market as well as other “wins” that may not immediately come to mind.

“These two properties were hoping to grow the market, which would be a sign of success,” Pandit said. “The other sign is that combined, these two properties have hired more than 7,000 employees that’s a huge success for the area.”

These new resort experiences should lead to healthy competition

Ambrose said another way to measure the two properties’ success is by the individuality they bring to the market and how that will add to a healthy competition among casinos.

Hard Rock International owns no other properties in the city, nor does ORC, which is a far cry from 2014 when two groups owned more than half the properties in town.

“Atlantic City has long needed this type of competitive resort environment because everyone will actively be in the game competing for business,” Ambrose said. “For too long there was not enough individual ownership of casino properties. As an example, it used to be that the Trump brand had three and Caesars had four. Where was the competition with only twelve properties in town?”

No June Gloom For Atlantic City Casino Revenue As Hard Rock, Ocean Resort Open

The opening of Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, as well as the start of NJ sports betting, led to a significant increase in Atlantic City casino revenue in the month of June, according to the DGE.

The opening of two new casinos and the emergence of two sportsbooks provided a significant boost to Atlantic City casino revenue in June.

According to revenue numbers provided by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), the casino industry enjoyed a 6.3 percent increase in gaming revenue compared to June 2016.

Perhaps most significant in this past month’s numbers is the inclusion of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino. The two properties opened June 28 and ushered in a new era in AC history.

Overall numbers rise with a little help

The DGE notes that casinos earned a total gaming revenue (including NJ sports betting and online casino revenue) of $231.4 million in June. That number is roughly $16 million more than the $217.7 million earned in June 2017.

When NJ online gambling revenue and sports betting revenue are excluded, the numbers aren’t nearly as impressive but they still end up in positive territory. Overall casino win stood at $207.5 million for June 2018, a 5.1 percent increase compared to June 2017.

The jump in revenue also represents a significant increase in terms of the typical month-to-month jump.

Here are the monthly Atlantic City casino revenue numbers so far this year:

  • January: $162,350,669
  • February: $170,064,598
  • March: $194,883,771
  • April: $191,416,787
  • May: $193,394,309
  • June: $207,496,488

The revenue increase from February to March involved two factors: bad weather and a short month.

This anomaly aside, the $14.1 million revenue increase between May and June is the biggest increase so far this year. From January to February, there was a roughly $8 million increase. From March to April, the industry experienced a worrisome decline, and April to May saw a small $2 million increase, more or less.

To put it another way, the $14.1 million revenue increase this past month surpassed the sum of all revenue increases this year, February-to-March not included.

This type of revenue increase can be considered a huge win for the city, mainly because it could indicate a strong summer once Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort have a full month to generate revenue.

Three days of Hard Rock and Ocean Resort

The DGE report contained the revenue numbers from Hard Rock AC and Ocean Resort, numbers which represent the two casino’s soft opening and grand opening numbers.

In the case of Hard Rock, it’s online casino opened for business the same day as its Boardwalk casino, but the site does not have sports betting as yet. Ocean Resort, however, does have a sportsbook up and running. The Ocean Resort online casino launched July 10.

The land-based casinos were officially open for just three days in June and, according to the DGE, here’s how the revenue numbers for AC’s newest properties panned out:

  • Ocean Resort total revenue (casino + sports betting): $3,200,371 ($3.01 million  + $192,671)
  • Hard Rock AC total revenue (casino + internet win): $4,177,295 ($4.17 million + $5,569)

The per-day average revenue over the course of three days is about $1.07 million at Ocean Resort and $1.39 million at Hard Rock Atlantic City.

Over the course of a 30-day month, those numbers would translate to $32.1 million at Ocean Resort and $41.7 million for Hard Rock AC. It would put them in the top five for AC casinos.

It’s hard to say if those opening-weekend numbers are higher than normal or, because patrons are somewhat distracted by the hoopla and events, lower than normal. And in the end, extrapolating the numbers doesn’t take into account fluctuations in tourism.

Either way, the summer is looking to be a good one for Atlantic City.

Could Esports Explode In Atlantic City? New Potential Data Deal Hints At Future Hub

Continent 8, a global server and data firm, is in the final stages of making a deal to bring a secure server space to Atlantic City, heralding a possible eSports and online gaming resurgence.

Atlantic City may be the next hub for esports.

According to an article published on Monday by Press of Atlantic City, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is in the final stages of a deal with network solutions company Continent 8.

The company hopes to install 6,000-square-feet of secure servers in a space inside the Atlantic City Convention Center.

“A … new, independent Continent 8 data center location in Atlantic City will be added shortly to further capacity and provide additional secure data redundancy and disaster recovery,” the company said in a June 26 press release.

While this deal has yet to be finalized and, therefore, is not a certainty, Continent 8’s presence in AC is an ever-growing reminder that the company believes Atlantic City is the premier choice for building an online gambling and esports hub.

Possible Continent 8 project third such endeavor in AC

Continent 8 first arrived in New Jersey in 2014 in the form of a data center in Atlantic City.

Continent 8 said in a press release that year that the data center would act as a hub for parts of New Jersey and New York.

Then, this past June, the company made headlines again when its newest data center debuted in Ocean Resort Casino.

Of that debut, CEO Michael Tobin said in the aforementioned press release that his company’s data center is part of the city’s resurrection.

“The new data center provides independent licensed infrastructure and cyber security services for online gaming operators, particularly sports betting providers,” he said. “Utilizing our connected and secured global network allows multi-state customer data to be consolidated in New Jersey, leading to reduced costs and increased service availability to users.”

The company’s data center at Ocean Resort acts as a hub for the nation and connects overseas, Continent’s press release said.

“The Ocean Resort Casino data center, in conjunction with the other upcoming location, provides connectivity to Pennsylvania and Nevada locations, and a direct link to Continent 8’s global network of 30+ data centers,” the release reads.

Continent 8 is, at the time of publishing, the only data provider licensed by the Division of Gaming Enforcement to provide their services for NJ online gambling.

Esports gaining popularity in AC

Continent 8’s heavy presence in the city is assumed to be a sign that esports is going to explode in Atlantic City. That’s certainly a possibility with all the data, security, and server infrastructure the company is building.

And, in the meantime, Atlantic City casinos have made their own foray into esports.

Caesars hosted the first official esports tournament in March 2017, an event with a purse of $200,000 and the first-place prize of $70,000.

Then, this past May, Harrah’s drew a crowd of more than 1,000 for the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League Season 7 Finals.

The city’s recent embrace of esports is a timely, if not tardy, decision. The esports industry has grown considerably over the past few years.

Forbes reports that the industry’s value is predicted to rise 38 percent in 2018, from $655 million in 2017 to a projected $905 million this year.

PokerStars NJ To Host Online Event As Part Of New Moneymaker PSPC Tour

PokerStars’ Chris Moneymaker announced the launch of the Moneymaker PSPC Tour, at which US poker players pay a $86 entry fee for a chance at a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars championship.

All that stands between you and a seat at the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) is $86.

This past week, 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Chris Moneymaker announced he would be hosting a national tour. The Moneymaker PSPC Tour will award one winner from each tournament a $30,000 Platinum Pass to the PSPC, which is scheduled for Jan. 6-10, 2019, in the Bahamas.

The $86 buy-in is a nod to what Moneymaker paid in order to get his seat at the WSOP Main Event and win the $2.5 million first-place prize.

PokerStars NJ to host a Sept. 30 tourney stop

Moneymaker will run one of his $86 events at the New Jersey online poker site, PokerStars, on Sept. 30. This means one lucky New Jersey poker player could win a Platinum Pass to the 2019 PSPC.

The Platinum Pass that’s up for grabs includes the following, according to PokerStars’ PSPC tourney page:

  • $25,000 entry  fee
  • Six nights’ accommodation
  • $2,000 in travel and on-site expenses

The PSPC tournament will take place at Atlantic Resort, the hotel at which the winner receives free accommodation.

Basically, whoever wins the Platinum Pass at the NJ online poker stop for the Moneymaker PSPC Tour is going to get luxury accommodations, a free flight, and a few free meals by virtue of the six nights and the $2,000 stipend.

More than 300 of the passes will be awarded.

Moneymaker’s win a historic one for online poker

Up until Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win, the final table was where seasoned poker pros converged every year to battle out for the big prize and the gold bracelet.

In fact, leading up to Moneymaker’s 2003 win, four of the past eight winners are now in the Poker Hall of Fame: Dan Harrington, Stu Ungar, Scotty Nguyen, and Carlos Mortenson.

What was so revolutionary about his win is that he was primarily an online poker player and was regarded by many as an amateur.

However, Moneymaker exhibited steely resolve at the final table, ousting Phil Ivey’s full house with a better full house.

“Who is this young man?” asked announcer Lon McEachern after Moneymaker took down Ivey.

‘David against the Goliath’

Moneymaker’s hot streak continued, eventually placing him across the table from respected vet Sammy Farha.

The young Moneymaker bluffed Farha out of a hand that Farha was winning and then, on the next hand, he flopped two pair to Farha’s jacks.

He went all in, Farha called, and Moneymaker hit a full house on the river once more to cement his standing in history and unwittingly launch the modern era of online poker.

His influence on online poker is known as the “Moneymaker Effect.”

“I’m just your average guy,” Moneymaker said in a promo video of the tour on the PokerStars site. “It was the David against the Goliath. You can’t even make a movie that good. I lived it. It was incredible.”

Former Taj Mahal Workers Get $850 Each From Labor Dispute Settlement

At the end of June, as Hard Rock Atlantic City opened, former employees of the Taj Mahal received $850 checks as the result of a settlement between UNITE HERE Local 54 and former owner Carl Icahn.

This past month, 944 employees of the former Trump Taj Mahal received a check in the mail for $850.76.

Consider that amount a modest “I’m sorry” from Carl Icahn, the owner of the Taj at the time of its demise. Icahn’s miserly ways led to a July 2016 strike that ultimately resulted in the casino’s death.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the checks went to 494 non-union former employees and 450 members of UNITE HERE Local 54.

The checks were the result of a long-standing legal feud in which the casino contended that Icahn violated labor laws back in 2014 when the casino went into bankruptcy.

Issues started in 2014

Back in 2014, the union’s Taj employees went on strike. Months later, the casino declared bankruptcy.

During the bankruptcy proceedings, employees lost many of their benefits — including sick pay and vacation pay.

Over time, it became apparent to union leaders that Icahn had no intention of resurrecting some of the benefits union employees lost.

The feud continued to be a public one, with Icahn posting his opinions to his personal website, www.carlicahn.com.

In a letter dated June 9, 2015, Icahn slammed the union, portraying it as a ravenous band of greed-mongers putting individual employee’s jobs at risk for their monetary gain.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“UNITEHERE is a driving force behind a dysfunctional system that enriches those in power to the detriment of its own members.  In Atlantic City, they have contributed to the precipitous downfall and closure of one-third of the casinos, which has resulted in a devastating loss of employment for so many of your brethren in that city. “

Strike in 2016 led to Taj’s demise

The vitriol between Icahn and UNITE HERE Local 54 continued through 2015 and into 2016. In June of that year, the union threatened to strike at five casinos.

Four of them — Tropicana, Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s — came to a compromise with the union. The Taj Mahal did not.

On July 1, the union went on strike. By October the casino closed due to the money being lost as a result of the labor stoppage.

On Oct. 10, the union posted a triumphant message accompanied with photos from the strike. Here is an excerpt from that message:

“For 102 days we held the line against Wall Street’s attack on the American worker. We held the line for our families, who deserve good quality jobs and healthcare. We held the line against a billionaire taking from us to line his own pockets.

We held the line for our community, because we are proud of the middle class standard we have fought for in Atlantic City. We are 18 different languages and nationalities united in one voice: Enough is Enough. We stand up for good jobs, with dignity and respect. And we will not let a Wall Street billionaire take that away.

We held the line, and we will be back.”

Hard Rock hires hundreds of union workers

Local 54 made good on that closing promise.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City bought the former Taj and hired 385 Local 54 workers, representing about 85 percent of the Local 54 employees that worked at the Taj.

Bob McDevitt, Local 54’s president, told the Press of Atlantic City that the checks received from the settlement were a victory for him and his fellow members.

“I think it’s very satisfying that on the same day that we were able to reopen Hard Rock we were able to deliver these checks,” he was quoted as saying. “It helps to ease some of the pain and suffering our members went through.”

According to the Press of AC, the first checks arrived on June 28, the same day Hard Rock Atlantic City hosted its grand opening.

NJ Online Gambling Market Grows By One With Debut Of Hard Rock Online Casino

After Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) got the OK from NJ regulators, Hard Rock Online Casino launched into the NJ online gambling market the same day the Atlantic City casino opened.

Hard Rock Atlantic City’s hotel and gambling floor weren’t the only grand openings this past Thursday.

Hard Rock also quietly launched its real-money online casino, the result of online gambling operator Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) earning a provisional license from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The license will tide GiG over until it gets its first full-fledged US operating license.

GiG CEO Robin Reed said in a press release that this was a fantastic way to break into the US market.

“We are delighted to now be going live with Hard Rock in New Jersey, a first step in our mutually ambitious plans to take market share in the regulated online gambling market in the US,” Reed said.

A temporary license to get things rolling

According to the GiG press release, the company’s license is essentially a transitional approval. It allows them to launch Hard Rock online casino while the company awaits a full NJ online gambling license.

GiG has, as part of the standard licence application process by the DGE, received what is called a transactional waiver which certifies that the GIG Core platform is compliant with the rules and regulations of the DGE,” the GiG press release said.

In the meantime, GiG will be working with the DGE to finalize its regulatory compliance, at which point GiG will earn a full-fledged license, the Casino Service Industry Enterprise License.

What games are up at Hard Rock online casino?

The current iteration of Hard Rock online casino features slots and table games, as well as ongoing slots tournaments. Table games include blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and a couple of other options.

Slots options include 25 different games, some of which will be fairly familiar to players at NJ gambling sites. Divine Fortune, Emoji Planet, and Starburst are just a few of the recognizable online slots.

Hard Rock online casino became the 24th online casino or poker site in the state.

The breakdown of NJ online casinos and poker sites is as follows:

  • Borgata: 6 online casinos, 4 poker sites
  • Caesars: 4 online casinos, 2 poker sites
  • Golden Nugget: 2 online casinos
  • Resorts: 2 online casinos, 1 poker site
  • Tropicana: 2 online casinos
  • Hard Rock: 1 online casino

This past May, New Jersey online casinos earned $24.3 million, the second-best month in NJ online gambling history.

GiG-Hard Rock deal goes back five months

The partnership between GiG and Hard Rock Atlantic City emerged in February. At the time, Reed said the partnership provided GiG many benefits, not the least of which is a collaboration with a powerful global brand.

“Hard Rock has ambitious plans to become a global leader in iGaming, and we are proud to have been selected to help them,” said Reed. “We get to partner with one of the world’s best-known brands to make a standout new online casino. It is really an exciting time at GiG.”

And with Thursday’s launch, GiG and Hard Rock are on the move in New Jersey at last.