Exclusive: Hard Rock’s Morris discusses impact of sports betting on Atlantic City … and the former Garden State Park

By Tom Bergeron
Piscataway | May 14, 2018 at 3:25 pm
Editor’s Desk

Jack Morris said he couldn’t remember what came first: a text, a phone call or an email.

He just knows his phone wouldn’t stop buzzing this morning when word came down from the U.S. Supreme Court that sports betting would be allowed in New Jersey.

As one of the owners of one of the most talked-about new properties in Atlantic City in decades, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, it wasn’t surprising.

In a sense, you could say Morris and his partners (Joe Jingoli and the Seminole Tribe that runs Hard Rock) hit the jackpot even before the former Trump Taj Mahal property is brought back to life June 28.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” he told ROI-NJ. “A lot of people were offering congratulations. I was really happy to see how happy people were for me and my partners and Atlantic City.”

Morris said he was happy to see the enthusiasm, but he cautioned that it must be tempered just a bit.

For two reasons.

“The legislation (for sports gambling) is in place, but the actual rules are not,” he said. “We don’t know if it will be just at these sports betting facilities, if it will be online, if there will be certain hours restrictions — we just don’t know yet.

“The state certainly has been behind this and we believe it will continue to be. But we need to know the rules. Is it going to be overseen by the Casino Control Commission or another commission? Things like that.”

And then there’s this: It is unclear when (or even if) sports betting will come to the Hard Rock.

That decision, Morris made clear, will be made by Hard Rock officials — officials that have to look at its impact on all of their properties.

“Hard Rock is the managing partner, and it will be up to Hard Rock to make the decision as to what they want to do as it relates to sports betting,” he said.

“They are the manager of the property. We have 100 percent faith in support with our partners, Hard Rock and the Seminole Tribe. We know they will do whatever is in the best interest of the property in Atlantic City.”

Morris feels the Hard Rock will benefit no matter what the decision, as the ruling will bring more people to Atlantic City.

“I think it’s fair to say this brings another opportunity and another component to Atlantic City,” he said. “We think it will bring potentially hundreds of thousands of sports fans to Atlantic City because there are now a whole bunch of new ways to attract them.

“You can have special events, depending on the season, whether it’s March Madness or the Super Bowl or whatever the big event may be. I just think it’s great for Atlantic City.”

It also may be good for Morris and his company, Edgewood Properties.

Edgewood Properties is currently developing Towne Place at Garden State Park, a mixed-use facility at the old Garden State Park race track.

Morris said he did not buy the property with sports gambling in mind, but he is well aware the property — as a former race track — will be eligible to have sports betting.

“When we bought the property, we weren’t contemplating sports betting, but we are now,” he said. “And we are under construction for a sports betting facility.”

Morris said the facility will be ready for the next big moment on the sports gambling calendar: the opening week of the NFL.

That is, of course, assuming the rules that apply to sports gambling will be out.

Morris is content to wait, confident that this is a good thing for Atlantic City and the state of New Jersey.

He just wishes he could make his cell phone stop ringing today.

“I’ve already had people calling me asking where they can make a bet,” he said.

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