First In Line: Hard Rock Atlantic City Reopens Buffet With Changes

Hard Rock AC is now offering customers an all-you-can-eat dining experience at Fresh Harvest. It is the first and only Atlantic City casino buffet to reopen.

Hard Rock Casino finally has the one thing missing from the Atlantic City indoor dining season.

Any idea what it is?

After months of waiting, Hard Rock Atlantic City customers now have the option of eating lunch or dinner at Fresh Harvest casino buffet. For those wondering how a property can operate a buffet when the coronavirus global pandemic is still around, the solution involves some creativity.

Hard Rock is reinventing the concept by replacing the traditional buffet with an all-you-can-eat dining experience.

In other words, for now, forget about the long lines at the food stations. Instead, all of the “classic comforts and international favorites” are served straight to the table. The cost is $29.99 per person.

Call it the social-distance version of the popular Atlantic City buffet.

What’s on the Fresh Harvest buffet menu

Customers familiar with the Fresh Harvest menu will notice many of the regular items are still on the expansive menu.

Here is a small sampling of what’s available:

  • Sliced brisket
  • New England clam chowder
  • General Tso’s chicken
  • Italian chopped salad
  • New York cheesecake parfaits

Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday noon-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon-10 p.m.

Status of Atlantic City indoor dining

Nothing much has changed since early September when Gov. Phil Murphy cleared the path for AC casinos to bring back indoor dining.

Like the other restaurants across the state, Fresh Harvest employees and guests must follow the indoor dining guidelines mandated by New Jersey.

Hard Rock AC takes things a step further with its Safe + Sound protocols.

At this time, there is no word as to if and when Murphy will increase indoor capacity.

When will other Atlantic City casino buffets reopen?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that will remain unanswered, for now.

NJGamblingSites reached out to several of the other Atlantic City casinos, and “nothing new” was the response across the board.

The Buffet page on the Golden Nugget AC website includes a brief statement:

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Buffet is closed until further notice.”

The restaurant page on the Tropicana AC website still shows the words “Temporarily Closed” across the Fiesta Buffet image.

The others may be waiting to see how smoothly things go at Hard Rock before moving forward with their buffet reopening plans.

Associated Press photo

Some AC Casino Employees Eligible For Relief Through A Fund Setup By Tillman Fertitta

Tilman Fertitta donated $1 million to a fund established for Landry’s employees. Golden Nugget AC employees are eligible to apply for relief.

Thousands of workers that were furloughed when Atlantic City casinos closed last month. Casinos are entering their second month of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And casino employees are looking for any sort of good news these days.

Many of the casinos offered their employees severance pay until they were laid off. They were unable to collect unemployment benefits while receiving those benefits.

Unfortunately, these services are so backlogged that there are casino workers who have yet to receive any sort of checks.

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Throwing casino employees a lifeline

Tilman Fertitta, the CEO/president of Landry’s which owns multiple franchises, including the NBA Houston Rockets and Golden Nugget Atlantic City announced some relief for employees last week.

The company created The Fertitta Entertainment/Employee Relief Fund to help the over 40,000 furloughed Landry’s employees. He contributed $1 million in seed money.

“Our employees are our most important resource,” Fertitta said in a statement.

“COVID-19 has taken a particularly harsh toll on all aspects of the hospitality industry where we are heavily invested. It is our hope this fund will provide some much-needed relief for our valued employees.”

When Golden Nugget casino employees were let go back on March 19, they were informed, via letter, that they will receive two weeks’ pay and their health insurance paid through June 30.

However, according to Texas Monthly, only the salaried workers received that pay while hourly workers simply had their hours reduced to none, according to Texas Monthly.

A noble gesture might not be enough

AC casinos will remain closed until further notice. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding when they will open and if everyone will be hired back when they do.

As such, establishing the fund is a noble gesture from an employer who obviously wants to do right by his workers.  When you do the math, the potential payout per employee isn’t all that much.

If all 40,000 of Fertitta’s furloughed employees put in a request for a piece of that million-dollar seed offering, each person would only receive just $25.

Now, the fund is accepting donations, so it has the potential to grow. The fund will need more money to really help these employees feel a little safer as they try to ride out the pandemic.

Honestly, the fund is only a small life-preserver to people that are trying not to drown fiscally. Right now, though, any relief for casino employees is huge.

Maintenance Required: Golden Nugget Sportsbook Offline Following SBTech Cyberattack

Golden Nugget’s NJ online sportsbook, powered by SBTech, remains down following last week’s cyber attack. Luckily, it’s AC online casino is not impacted.

Golden Nugget Sportsbook customers are currently sidelined. The following message appears on the sports betting site:


The SBTech-powered platform went down on March 27 as the result of a cybersecurity threat.

However, the Golden Nugget online casino is not impacted because it operates via a Scientific Games platform.

In New Jersey, the impact also includes:

Impact on Golden Nugget Sportsbook

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Golden Nugget sports betting site was still down. The operational status remains to be determined.

Thomas Winter, senior vice president and general manager of online gaming for Golden Nugget, addressed the issue with NJ Gambling Sites.

“It’s premature to give an exact timeline, but we hope for the next 48 hours,” said Winter.

So, in the meantime, customers can expect the app to remain in maintenance mode.

“We trust SBT are taking all measures necessary, in close conjunction with regulators, to reopen in a safe fashion,” said Winter.

Leland Moore, spokesman for the New Jersey of Division of Gaming Enforcement, issued the following statement to NJGS:

“The Division of Gaming Enforcement will review and confirm that SB Tech’s operating systems satisfy all of the Division’s performance standards prior to resuming operations.”

Cyberattacks are never good news.

However, the incident comes at a time when the NJ sports betting world is on hold. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the postponement of major sporting events, which includes the start of the 2020 MLB season.

But from Golden Nugget’s perspective, Winter said sports betting was less than 1% of revenue.

“[Revenue was] even less in the days before the cyberattack because of most sports events being canceled, so the impact is very limited for us now,” said Winter.

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Golden Nugget online casino still going strong

The financial impact would be much more severe if the cyberattack shut down Golden Nugget online casino operations.

Its internet gaming revenue is tops among the Garden State’s seven license holders. For February alone, the company generated a market-leading $19.7 million. And that is an 84% year-over-year increase.

The integrated BetAmerica casino and sportsbook app falls under the Golden Nugget license.

But what makes those results more significant is the fact that Atlantic City casinos closed March 16. As long as social distancing guidelines remain in place, the gambling floors will remain shuttered.

Year to date, Golden Nugget’s online portfolio ($40.9 million) has outperformed the land-based operations ($31.1 million).

SugarHouse online casino and Betfair are the other land-based partners.

Getting back in the NJ sports betting game

The Golden Nugget sports wagering app will be up and running again soon. Of course, the bigger issue is being able to offer bettors live sporting events.

Remember, this is the first season the Marina District property is offering NBA betting. Eventually, the league and other pro sports will return.

But will it be safe wagering once the cyberattack issue is resolved?

Golden Nugget customers can be assured that personal information remains safeguarded.

“None of our customers’ personal information is ever sent to SBTech systems because they stay within our players’ account management system, which is not managed by SBTech,” said Winter.

6 Changes Worth Noting In 6 Years Of New Jersey Online Gambling

As the New Jersey online gambling market celebrates six years, we take a look back at the six biggest changes to the market since those early days.

New Jersey online casinos opened for business with seven casinos and six online poker rooms in a coordinated launch on Nov. 21, 2013.

But it took a little work and almost three years to get there.

Protecting Atlantic City casinos, adhering to the Wire Act, and educating the public about what online gambling really meant, resulted in a veto and rewriting the legislation.

Eventually, a bill legalizing online gambling in New Jersey was approved in a bipartisan effort on Feb. 26, 2013.

Former-Gov. Chris Christie followed with his signature, making New Jersey the third state to legalize online gambling behind Delaware and Nevada.

New Jersey may have been third to legalize online gambling, but it is the state other states look to for guidance in crafting legislation.

As the New Jersey online gambling market celebrates six years, we take a look at the six biggest changes to the market since those early days.

1. Size matters when it comes to NJ online casinos

On Nov. 21, 2013, seven online casinos and six online poker rooms began a weeklong testing phase. Five days later, all 13 were approved for full-time operations.

Today, New Jersey is home to:

  • 23 online casinos
  • Seven online poker rooms
  • 17 online sportsbooks

The first year of operation saw a limited number of games and technical challenges that slowed down the industry’s initial growth.

Six years later, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is a well-oiled machine. Online casinos, plus the technology involved, have advanced tremendously. While technical glitches still happen, they are usually short-lived.

During December 2013, the first full month of operation, the online gambling market earned $7,388,672.

Compare that to today. In October 2019, the latest NJ online casino revenue numbers available, online casinos generated $45,214,555 of income.

Since the launch of online casino gambling, the industry brought in $1.4 billion and the state benefited to the tune of $2.1 million.

In 2019, seven out of the 10 months produced record revenue, the most recent record-setting month coming in October. Even more impressive is the massive year-over-year growth of 69%.

Last year at this time, many people started asking the question, when will the online casino market stop growing?

Well, 2019 is not the answer. By the look of things, neither is 2020.

2. Live dealer games liven up online casinos

Live dealer games in New Jersey are probably the biggest innovation to online casinos over the years. Golden Nugget online casino first launched live dealer games in August 2016.

In those days, Golden Nugget offered one table each of:

  • Blackjack
  • Roulette
  • Baccarat

Betfair Casino, under the Golden Nugget license, was the next online casino to offer live dealer games in May 2017.

It was almost another year before Borgata added live dealer games to its casino portfolio.

Bringing the experience and excitement of the casino floor to online sites was a gamble that paid off big time for Golden Nugget.

That addition is often credited for catapulting Golden Nugget to market leader, a position it still holds today.

Today, players can enjoy more games at more NJ online casinos, including:

  • Baccarat
  • Blackjack
  • Casino hold ’em
  • Roulette
  • Three-card poker

Live dealer games are as popular today as they were three years ago when they first came into the market. A majority of websites in the state now have a live dealer library.

They are a must if an online casino wants to make it in the highly-competitive New Jersey market.

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3. NJ sports betting’s impact on online gambling

There is no doubt one of the biggest changes to online gambling in New Jersey was the introduction of NJ sports betting apps.

When online sports betting launched in August 2018, online casino gambling was hovering around the mid-$20 million range. Since January 2019, online casinos in NJ have not posted revenue of less than $30 million.

Yes, some of that is due to innovations like new games and new online casinos such as:

  • BetAmerica
  • Unibet NJ
  • Bet365 Casino
  • Parx Casino

However, a lot of that revenue can be attributed to online sports betting and bringing new customers into the casino.

Additionally, a shared wallet between the sportsbook, casino and poker sites has helped companies such as DraftKings make a bigger splash on the market.

It is now easier than ever for a bettor to take a slot out for a few spins while watching and betting on a game.

Speaking of DraftKings, the successful pivot from daily fantasy sports (DFS) to sports betting for DraftKings Sportsbook and its DFS-turned-sportsbook rival, FanDuel Sportsbook, is also worth noting.

Both companies had a strong brand presence and access to a large database of customers with a history of betting on fantasy outcomes.

It is certainly easier to convert a fantasy player to a sports bettor to a casino gambler than it is to acquire a brand-new customer without a history of gambling online.

There is no doubt that legal sports betting in NJ is one of the main reasons online casinos continue to set revenue records in the Garden State.

4. Cross marks the sweet spot

Cross-selling, cross-border traffic and casinos crossing into the Garden State has certainly dominated the headlines over the last year.

It seems everyone, and that includes players and gambling companies, wants an invite to the party in New Jersey.

As a way to expand their reach, we’ve seen SugarHouse Casino cross the Pennsylvania border into NJ to set up shop — even before online sports betting was available in the Garden State.

More recently, Parx found its way across the border. After six years of online gambling, and still the NJ market continues to grow at a double-digit pace, is too enticing not to want a piece.

Even Native American tribes are getting in the action. Specifically, the Pala Tribe from California and Mohegan Sun Tribe from Connecticut operate casinos in NJ and have since the early days of online gambling.

We touched on the importance of cross-selling between sportsbooks and casinos above, but now, FanDuel and DraftKings are cross-selling their product between:

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Indiana
  • West Virginia (DraftKings only)

One app, one account and one wallet that geolocates you to the state your in and provides you gambling options in that state.

It’s true, Indiana has not legalized online casinos yet. West Virginia has legalized them but has not launched them.

Even so, setting up the infrastructure to cross-sell products across borders will be a key to the success of online betting apps in the future.

When sports betting first launched, New Jersey benefitted from the lack of legal sports betting in the region. Bettors from New York and Pennsylvania would head to the nearest truck stop on the border to place their bets.

While New York is still not online, Pennsylvania is. Will cross-border traffic decline? It is too early to tell, but it most likely will to some degree.

Even so, there are still enough bettors without access to sports betting apps in their states to keep cross-border traffic as a contributor to online gambling revenue.

5. Partnerships, mergers and consolidation, oh my

While partnerships and mergers existed before the launch of legal sports betting in the US, the deals accelerated as more European companies moved into the US market and the sports leagues looked to capitalize on a new revenue stream.

With 23 online casinos and 17 online sportsbooks, we already see the consolidation of the majority of income within a few brands.

In October 2019, the top two online casinos generated as much income as the entire NJ online casino market in October 2018. Sportsbooks show a similar story.

As income starts to consolidate, company consolidation will certainly follow. In fact, we already see it with Flutter’s recent acquisition of The Stars Group (TSG).

And in case you forgot, Flutter was the result of a merger between Paddy Power and Betfair, which acquired FanDuel in 2018.

The other news dominating headlines are the latest partnerships between gambling companies and:

  • Media outlets
  • Advertisers
  • Sports leagues

It’s not just big deals with big names, either. FanDuel signed a deal with the NHL, not for sports betting but for DFS. The Stars Group has a sponsorship deal with the UFC.

Deals are being signed at record speed. It is changing how companies evaluate markets and prepare for online gambling launches.

Take the recent Yahoo and BetMGM deal.

Yahoo, a media company, rolls out an NJ sports betting app powered by BetMGM. While technically, Yahoo is sending the customer to BetMGM; from a customer perspective, Yahoo has a sportsbook.

Two years ago, that would be crazy talk. Six years ago, there would be plenty of incredulous laughs. Today, we barely bat an eyelash.

Word of caution for those gambling companies taking a wait-and-see approach. If they wait too long, they will likely be left out in the cold.

6. Gambling as entertainment is more widely accepted

It wasn’t that long ago where someone might be ashamed to admit that they spent a day in a casino. Or worse, spent a few hours online playing the slots.

Today, more Americans accept gambling as a form of entertainment.

According to a survey commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA), nearly half of all Americans think of the casino industry favorably and two-thirds think casinos are a form of high-quality entertainment.

Additionally, 49% of those surveyed believe casinos are beneficial to their local communities. Specifically, they contribute to the local economy and create jobs.

It is those numbers that are driving more states to bring online gambling legislation to the table.

“The favorability of our industry has never been higher,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the AGA.

“As gaming expands across the US and more Americans engage with our industry’s offerings, they see firsthand gaming’s positive impact on local economies and its value as a community partner.”

NJ online gambling is just getting started

Looking at this list of six changes to online gambling over the past years shows the potential for the next six. As more states come online, we can expect to see more growth, more innovation and yes, more healthy competition, too.

The percentage of Americans that look favorably on the industry will grow, as will the number of Americans that visit a casino, whether online or in person.

So, here’s looking at you, New Jersey. May you continue to lead the charge. We can’t wait to see what the next few years bring.

Nothing But Net! Golden Nugget Gets Final OK To Post NBA Odds

If New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signs the sports betting bill, Golden Nugget Atlantic City will be permitted to offer NBA bets, sans Houston Rockets.

We interrupt this NFL betting period for some breaking NBA wagering news.

Golden Nugget‘s NBA betting ban lifted. NJ Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill on Friday.

New Jersey Assembly Bill A5463 passed both houses by a 26-1 vote. Here is the summary of what the bill encompasses:

Permits owner of 10 percent or more of member team of sports governing body to place or accept wagers on certain sports events in which other member teams participate.

Click here to see the full version of the bill.

Prior to its passing and Murphy’s official signature, Golden Nugget was on the basketball betting sidelines.

Golden Nugget on the sidelines during NBA season

The original NJ sports betting legislation did not permit casino owners to offer wagering on a sport if they owned a team in that sport. This included any online skins or partners.  

Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget and NBA’s Houston Rockets, was the only AC casino owner impacted by this rule.

As a result, Golden Nugget and its online partners BetAmerica and PlaySugarHouse could not reap the benefits of NBA betting in New Jersey.

Eventually, SugarHouse decided to switch partners in order to offer NBA odds. It moved to Monmouth Park’s license in October 2018.

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Golden Nugget + Houston Rockets

Loosening the restrictions means Golden Nugget sportsbook and BetAmerica NJ are no longer on the outside looking in during pro basketball betting.

Under the new law, Golden Nugget and online partner BetAmerica sportsbook can accept bets on NBA games. However, those involving James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Rockets will remain off-limits.

This is similar to the restriction placed on Golden Nugget’s sports betting in Nevada.

NBA betting is still a couple of months away from tipoff.

Until then, there are plenty of US Open, college football, and MLB wagering opportunities.

It’s Another Hot Summer Of AC Casino Loyalty Club Upgrades And Cash Giveaways

Atlantic City casino promotions are creating a summer heatwave of loyalty club tier matching along with cash and car giveways at Golden Nugget and more.

Business is picking up around Atlantic City. Call it the Fourth of July to Labor Day summer rush.

With two new casinos marking one year on the Boardwalk, and plenty of other changes happening inside and outside properties, there’s a lot to consider when visiting.

As with last summer, casinos around the city are thinking up ways to keep the customers interested.

Free parking (Golden Nugget and Ocean Casino Resort) is a good starting point to be sure.

But the big giveaway offers are what brings foot traffic to the casino floor, from million dollar giveaways to massive loyalty club status upgrades and tier matching.

Here are a few examples of what’s going on at the Jersey Shore.

1. Golden Nugget tier matching

Atlantic City’s smallest property is approaching a milestone.

But the NJ online gambling leader is not ignoring the importance of attracting land-based customers.

The Upgrade Your Summer promotion is available through Sept. 2. This offer applies to new and existing 24K Select Club members.

There’s also plenty of tier matching and upgrades going on at Golden Nugget if you carry loyalty cards from other AC casinos. Below is a list of all the tier-match upgrades at Golden Nugget available now through Sept. 2.

AC Casino Reward ProgramLoyalty LevelGolden Nugget Tier Match
Borgata/MGMLevel 1 SapphirePremier
Borgata/MGMLevel 2 PearlChairman trade up
Borgata/MGMLevel 3 GoldElite trade up
Borgata/MGMLevel 4 PlatinumElite trade up
Borgata/MGMLevel 5 NoirElite trade up
ResortsLevel 1 PremierePremier
ResortsLevel 2 EpicChairman trade up
ResortsLevel 3 ParamountElite trade up
ResortsLevel 4 Red CarpetElite trade up
Caesars RewardsLevel 1 GoldPremier
Caesars RewardsLevel 2 PlatinumChairman trade up
Caesars RewardsLevel 3 DiamondElite trade up
Caesars RewardsLevel 4 Seven StarElite trade up
TropicanaLevel 1 GreenPremier
TropicanaLevel 2 CopperChairman trade up
TropicanaLevel 3 GoldElite trade up
TropicanaLevel 4 PlatinumElite trade up
TropicanaLevel 5 BlackElite trade up
Hard RockLevel 1 PremierPremier
Hard RockLevel 2 EliteChairman trade up
Hard RockLevel 3 Rock RoyaltyElite trade up
Hard Rock Level 4 XCardElite trade up
Ocean CasinoLevel 1 BluePremier
Ocean CasinoLevel 2 GoldChairman trade up
Ocean CasinoLevel 3 PlatinumElite trade up
Ocean CasinoLevel 4 BlackElite trade up

New chairman members (2,500 credits) will receive:

  • Opportunity to earn more cash back and comp dollars.
  • One free bingo board card per cardholder plus an additional card for guest.
  • Special discount at The Buffet for up to three guests.
  • 15% discount at participating retail locations.

Besides earning the highest level of offers, Elite (top tier, 12,500 credits) benefits are similar. Cardholders earn an extra bingo board and a 20% discount.

2. Ocean making a splash

Ocean Casino, fresh off its dual birthday celebration with Hard Rock Atlantic City, is offering tier matching, too.

New members who join the Players Club program at Ocean AC can bring premium cards from competitors (along with a valid ID) to get a tier match. The offer is available now through Dec. 31.

However, that’s one of several new promotions under the casino-first marketing approach that came about when the property changed its name earlier this year.

The chance to drive away in a new Porsche or with extra cash is a much bigger draw. And that’s all part of the $250,000 Summer of Porsche.

Players earn entries via slot and table play (poker is excluded). Qualifier drawings are held every Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m.

Five winners will be announced every hour. The prize is $1,000 in free slot play along with a grand prize entry.

The grand finale drawing is taking place at 11 p.m. Aug. 31. The two winners will face the tough decision of choosing between cash or car.

  • First place: 2019 Porsche Macan or $35,000 cash.
  • Second place: 2019 Porsche Boxster or $35,000 cash.

3. 1 million reasons to visit Hard Rock

Yes, it’s true. The SWAT team recently made a $1 million delivery to Hard Rock AC.

The cash is being safely stored in the cage until one guaranteed winner goes home with it on Sept. 1.

No need to take out a marker at the blackjack or craps table. Like Powerball, it all comes down to the luck of the draw.

Hard Rock Wild Card members have until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31 to earn entries. They come via slots, table games or HardRockCasino.com play. Every $10 comp dollars equals one entry.

The winner will be announced at 6 p.m. on Sept. 1.

Wild Card tier matching, too

Hard Rock is offering new members with premium cards from other casinos some added incentives to upgrade. The higher tiers are Elite or Rock Royalty.

And there are some perks, too. They include:

  • Complimentary hotel stay
  • Two tickets to Howie Mandel’s Comedy Club
  • $100 bonus free play (Rock Royalty only)