ATLANTIC CITY — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is punting on sports betting for now, which opens the door for Ocean Resort Casino to take the ball and run when the two properties open Thursday.

“We’re not opening with sports betting, but it’s something we’re taking a very hard look at for the future,” Matt Harkness, property president, told The Press of Atlantic City on Monday.

By contrast, Ocean Resort, also opening June 28, has already announced its partnership with London-based William Hill US to run its sports book operations. Executives with Ocean Resort said a 7,500-square-foot sports book will not be ready Thursday, but a temporary book will allow guests to place sports wagers on opening day.

The decision by Hard Rock — which spent more than $500 million renovating the former Trump Taj Mahal — to not immediately offer sports betting is likely welcome news to the resort’s other properties, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a consulting firm which has performed services for Hard Rock’s Atlantic City property.

“I think it’s going to raise a sigh of relief among a number of properties, not just in this neighborhood, but throughout the city,” said Pollock. “Hard Rock is going to be a contender in any area in which it plants its flag. So, any area in which they elect to not participate, long term or short term, for whatever reason, does present an opportunity for any competing property to gain share in that segment, by definition.”

Hard Rock International, parent company of the casino hotel, has a stadium naming rights deal with the NFL and the Miami Dolphins, which Chairman Jim Allen alluded to during a license hearing in May when asked about sports betting at the Atlantic City property. Allen said the confidential agreement had “certain restrictions” while testifying in front of the state Casino Control Commission, but did not elaborate.

Hard Rock and Ocean Resort will open within one hour of each other, marking the first time in the resort’s history two casino hotels have opened on the same day.

Ocean Resort, which is opening at the site of the former Revel Casino Hotel, has promised to deliver a “best in class” sports book to the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

“Ocean Resort Casino is thrilled to partner with William Hill, the best name in sports betting, to establish a truly unique sports betting experience in the center of our resort and in Atlantic City,” said Bruce Deifik, chairman and owner of Ocean Resort following the official announcement of the partnership. “From real-time betting to exclusive hospitality for major events, the sports book will be second-to-none.”

Gov. Phil Murphy is anticipated to attend both casino openings — barring any unforeseen complications with state budget negotiations — and place a sports wager at Ocean Resort.

Murphy placed the first sports bet in New Jersey history at William Hill’s sports book at Monmouth Park Racetrack on June 14. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened its sports book 30 minutes later, where NBA Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, placed the first sports wagers at an Atlantic City casino. To date, Borgata is still the only casino to offer sports betting.

Harkness said Hard Rock is going through its options when it comes to offering sports wagers and added, “Right now, quite frankly, we’re just focused on the opening.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 DDanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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