When Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, talks about the company’s expanding casino portfolio, sports betting is bound to come up.

With 21 states with live sports betting bills, the topic is hard to ignore. Not to mention the 14 legal states and the seven (including Washington, DC) others where launch is pending.

PlayUSA caught up with Allen to talk sports wagering. 

Seeing how far the industry continues to grow since the demise of PASPA comes as no surprise to him. 

“Well, I think everyone has literally known for decades. People have been talking about an expansion of legalizing sports betting for at least 20, 25 years,” Allen said. “I don’t think there is any secret. I believe it will do extremely well.” 

Hard Rock + regulated sports betting

Allen visited Hard Rock Atlantic City in January for a town hall meeting with its employees. The multimedia presentation highlighted Hard Rock casino properties from around the world. 

The $400 million Hard Rock Casino and Hotel opening in Gary, IN, is among those coming soon.

Besides being a joint venture with Spectacle Entertainment, it provides an entry point into the Indiana sports betting market. 

The plans include opening a retail sportsbook, too.

Furthermore, Hard Rock will extend its online business beyond New Jersey and Iowa

The Biloxi, MI, location has a retail operation, but mobile sports wagering legislation has yet to be approved in the state. 

Allen said that Hard Rock is hopeful that Ohio reaches a conclusion, too, and for a good reason. Hard Rock owns the Jack Cincinnati Casino.

But no matter which Hard Rock property, he said, much like in New Jersey, “It becomes an added form of entertainment that we all know has been going on for generations.”

“You can’t go to a local bar or join an office pool or whatever it is that doesn’t have very out, open, front and center of people making a bet on a game, whether it’s fun or someone seriously trying to create that environment,” said Allen.

“We think the more it becomes legalized and regulated, the better it is. Just candidly, it’s happening anyway, so (we) might as well make it as strong of a product and regulate it as a product in the right way as possible.”

Sports betting destinations

As more states launch sports betting, the majority will likely never come close to reaching the level of Las Vegas. Sure, the revenue and handle numbers may be strong throughout the US, but the Silver State has several more decades of experience. 

The American Gaming Association reported that a record $13 billion was legally wagered in the US last year. And, outside of New Jersey, there is a wide margin between Nevada and other states: 

  1. Nevada: $5.3 billion 
  2. New Jersey: $4.6 billion
  3. Pennsylvania: $1.5 billion
  4. Indiana: $436 million
  5. Mississippi: $369 million
  6. Rhode Island: $246 million
  7. West Virginia: $226 million
  8. Iowa: $212 million

Hard Rock offers sports betting in three of the states, with a fourth on the horizon. 

One thing that separates Nevada from the rest of the pack is the fact that it’s a destination for NFL betting and March Madness wagering. Bettors will book a long weekend in Vegas when there is a major sporting event on the calendar.

Super Bowl betting beyond Vegas 

For this year’s Super Bowl, the Atlantic City property hosted a party inside of Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena. It even included opening temporary betting windows in the concessions area. Wagering via the sportsbook app was encouraged, too. 

As a whole, NJ bettors wagered over $54 million on the big game. 

But weather-wise, the Jersey Shore is not exactly a go-to destination in early February. However, Allen says he wouldn’t be surprised to see other states starting to benefit when major sports betting events come around. 

“I think Las Vegas has always had the excitement because it was the only game in town.”  

Allen continued, “I think as it becomes legalized in other jurisdictions, it will start to diminish the excitement of going to Las Vegas because, frankly, people will be able to do it in their own jurisdiction.” 

New Jersey and sports betting integrity 

There is no denying the fact that New Jersey has set the bar when it comes to sports betting regulations.

The mobile sports betting market currently includes 17 apps, one of which is the Hard Rock-branded appUnibet and Bet365 also operate under its license.

It’s the online success that puts the Garden State in a league of its own. For January, handle came in at $540.1 million (of which $471.1 million was wagered via mobile devices). It’s a 40% year-over-year increase.

Allen refers to the Garden State regulatory environment as “world class.”

“I think New Jersey’s done an excellent job, understanding the integrity of the industry, understanding what is needed from a regulatory mindset, but also very respective and working with the operators to create something that becomes an amenity that’s very entertaining.”

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