uring the Nov. 3 elections, the casino plan in Bristol city achieved the widest margin of victory of four approved across Virginia. What does it mean for the business there? What are the next steps for the company, and what are your expectations in terms of needed regulations to come? How would you describe your work with the Virginia Lottery Board in that sense?
We are grateful for the strong support from Bristol, VA’s voters. The final referendum results reflect the tremendous outpouring of support we encountered throughout our extensive community engagement. We focused our efforts to ensure all of the Bristol residents had a complete understanding of the project and made sure we addressed their questions and concerns. Bristol’s music heritage alongside voters’ confidence in Hard Rock and our Partners (United Co. and Par Ventures) ability to provide much needed jobs and tax revenue for Bristol we believe were the drivers for the success.
The next step is to work with the VA Lottery in any consultation they request on the regulations and then submit our application for licensing. Assuming successful completion of this process, we hope to open a temporary gaming site at the Mall, which will allow us to begin hiring and training local employees as well as attracting more tourism dollars into the region as quickly as possible.
Gaming suppliers have recently told us some of the main changes on the operators' side are the physical setup in the casinos, for instance, the move towards pod configurations on the floors, and increased demand for linked progressives and multigame products, which reduce the need for players to move around the casino floor. Do you plan to roll out these, or any other particular features in Bristol’s, or other Hard Rock casino projects and existing properties, in order to adapt to the new environment? Which other new demands and requirements have you made, or plan to make to your gaming providers and developers in this sense?
Hard Rock is continuously optimizing the layout of our gaming floors and have incorporated many changes to ensure guest safety and satisfaction. We will wait to see the regulations from the Virginia Lottery first and then will assess the environment as we approach opening before making a determination on the best game mix and floorplan. We strongly consider our guests’ safety and preferences in the planning of each of our facilities. Our best-in-class SAFE + SOUND safety protocols have been very successful and well received in all the jurisdictions where we operate and this program is something we will continue to implement to ensure guest and team member safety.
What is your current assessment of your online gaming business? Do you see new player behaviors, demands, significant shifts between land-based and online, or even between different gambling verticals amid the pandemic? Have you moved to expand and diversify your online gaming offering these days, or are you working in that direction? What new kind of partnerships have opened up in that sense?
There is tremendous opportunity in the online sportsbook and gaming space and we have seen significant cross play between our land-based and online customers in New Jersey and Iowa. In Atlantic City, we were the first casino operator to offer a true omni channel experience for players to much success. Over the course of the pandemic and through today, we continue to see material double digit growth in the Online space. The expansion of our online business has been a strategic focus for the company and we will be announcing some of our expansion plans in the next few weeks.
Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary pushed its opening date until next spring, from its aspirational date of Jan. 9. What is the current status of the project, and what are the next steps?
Hard Rock initially announced a spring 2021 opening and we are on track to open in mid-March 2021 in Northern Indiana.