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The deal surfaced in a correspondence posted on the website of the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The letter consists of Director David Rebuck issuing a temporary approval for a portion of the partnership, valid through July 31.
You can read it here.
Hard Rock just opened on June 28, and Chairman Jim Allen said it’d be 30 to 60 days before he disclosed plans for sports betting. Checking the dates, though, this agreement was already in place by June 19.
So what’s going on?
If the deal sticks, it means Bet365 has found a foothold in the US.
Formed in England around 2000, the company has created one of the world’s largest online gambling brands from modest beginnings. It now delivers a full suite of proprietary betting and broadcast services to more than 20 million customers. It also operates a horse betting platform in the US, but this deal would be its first in the sports betting market.
What’s interesting is that Bet365 is entirely an online, consumer-facing company. It was born from a network of retail betting shops in the UK, but it has since sold off its brick-and-mortar locations. It deals directly with bettors, and exclusively online.
Unless there’s something we don’t know, it looks like the deal between Hard Rock and Bet365 is purely a skin deal. That is, Bet365 will operate its own, self-branded NJ sports betting platform. It must secure a licensed, land-based casino partner to do so, and it seems to have found that partner.
Bet365 isn’t the only big European bookmaker looking for new customers on this continent, either. William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair have also secured multiple US sports betting partnerships in recent months.
But if the Bet365 deal is just for a skin, where does that leave Hard Rock?
Regulations also stipulate that casinos can’t form online partnerships unless they offer sports betting on property. Those brick-and-mortar operations don’t necessarily have to be supplied by the licensing partner, but they must exist.
This deal tells us that Hard Rock has definite plans for a sportsbook, which is nothing new. Allen confirmed it himself during the grand opening in June:
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…
Hard Rock’s timeline centers around mobile betting, which could launch in the state as early as this week.
Another interesting wrinkle: Because of Hard Rock’s relationship with the NFL, it won’t be allowed to set lines or operate its own sportsbook. It must secure a partner to do so on its behalf. Since Bet365 doesn’t license its platform to casinos, the role of supplier/operator appears to be available.
It’s not clear who will fill that role, but Hard Rock does have a relationship with one B2B gambling giant. The Hard Rock NJ online casino is powered by Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), which recently added bookmaking to its list of available services.
If Allen’s words hold, we should know more in a month or so.