Hard Rock Announces Interactive Gaming and Sports Betting Product with Former Stars Group Execs

Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming today announced an interactive gaming and sports betting product called Hard Rock Digital. Both entities are controlled by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Hard Rock Digital is a joint venture between the Seminole companies and three online gaming and sports betting executives. The business is in collaboration with Rafi Ashkenazi, former CEO of The Stars Group. The Stars Group is a parent company to PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker network. Former Stars Group Chief Legal Officer Marlon Goldstein is also on board, as is former FOX Bet President Matthew Primeaux.

Hard Rock says Digital will leverage the casino and hospitality group’s extensive database of customers to offer interactive online gaming and sports betting. Hard Rock Digital will be fully capitalized by the Seminoles and its partners and will report to a newly formed Hard Rock Digital Board of Directors, which will be chaired by Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen.

We are broadening our digital business, which enhances consumer experiences,” said Allen.

Hard Rock has casinos in five sports betting states. This includes Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa, and Mississippi. All but Mississippi allow mobile sports wagering. Hard Rock’s Atlantic City casino additionally offers online slot machines and table games.

Hard Rock is currently partnered with Scientific Games for iGaming and sports betting. Hard Rock did not say whether it would seek to terminate that arrangement with the coming of Hard Rock Digital.

Internet Betting Offsets Revenue Loss 

Americans across the country remain under strict health regulations, including stay-at-home orders. Travel is largely paused, and brick-and-mortar casinos are either closed or operating at greatly reduced levels.

The first coronavirus vaccines are being deployed in the US this week. But health officials say the general public won’t likely have access to a dose until February at the earliest.

All 944 commercial casinos closed at some point this year because of the pandemic. Land-based gross gaming revenue (GGR) naturally plummeted.

According to the American Gaming Association, slot GGR is down 38 percent in 2020 through September, and table gaming win down 43 percent. But gaming industries that operate in legal, regulated internet markets have offset some of those losses online.

iGaming GGR has soared 206 percent through the first three quarters, with more than $1 billion won by internet casinos. Sports betting win is up 27 percent compared with 2019, largely due to expanded operations in new states.

“In the US alone, the potential future market size is estimated at $7 billion for sports betting and $14 billion for online gaming,” Allen said, citing a Morgan Stanley report.

Sports, iGaming Increases Market Share

Legacy gaming includes traditional slot machines and table games inside physical casinos. It controlled a 99 percent market share of commercial gaming revenue in 2017. At the end of 2019, that number was down to 95 percent, as sports betting represented a 3.4 percent share and iGaming a 1.5 percent stake.

The pandemic has led to further gains online.

In the second quarter of 2020, legacy gaming’s market share plummeted below 80 percent, while iGaming surged to 17.6 percent and sports betting to 2.8 percent. As land-based casinos reopened, legacy gaming regained market share, 91 percent in Q3. More players turned off their computers and returned to the brick-and-mortar casino, pushing iGaming’s share back down to 4.8 percent.

But during that same time, sports betting continued to gain market share, rising to 3.8 percent.

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