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Stars and Fox Bet veterans to lead new Hard Rock Digital venture


Hard Rock International has struck a joint venture with a trio of former Stars Group executives, including ex-chief executive Rafi Ashkenazi, to significantly expand the restaurant, casino and hotel giant’s digital gaming business. 

The new Hard Rock Digital venture will look to leverage Hard Rock International’s network of properties alongside those operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Seminole Gaming arm to develop omni-channel sports betting and igaming businesses worldwide. 

Together, Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming have a database of more than 130m customers, and a footprint of almost 250 land-based properties across 76 countries. 

The new business will be managed by former chief executive of The Stars Group, Rafi Ashkenazi, who serves as its executive managing director and executive chair. 

Ashkenazi left his previous role following Flutter Entertainment’s acquisition of the PokerStars operator in May, and will take up his new position early next year following a period of gardening leave. 

He will be joined by Marlon Goldstein, formerly Stars’ chief legal officer, who serves as Hard Rock Digital’s executive managing director and CEO. Goldstein also serves on the board of Tekkorp Digital Acquisition Corporation, a special purpose acquisition company seeking to acquire digital gaming businesses with an enterprise value of between $1bn and $2bn.

Matt Primeaux, previously senior vice president of US strategy and operation for Stars, completes the team. He serves as executive managing director and president of the new business.

Seminole Gaming, Hard Rock International and its partners will provide full financial sport and backing for the joint venture. 

“With the launch of Hard Rock Digital, we are broadening our digital business which enhances consumer experiences and offerings across our interactive gaming and sportsbook offerings,” Hard Rock International chair Jim Allen said. 

“Hard Rock Digital also intends to pursue strategic branding and distribution opportunities both within the US and globally,” Allen added. “In the US alone, the potential future market size is estimated at $7bn for sports betting and $14bn for online gaming.”

Allen will also join the digital business’ board of directors, as chair, with the business to be based on Florida. 

“We are honored to join forces with Hard Rock International on this new venture,” Hard Rock Digital CEO Goldstein added. 

“Hard Rock International is consistently at the forefront of innovation and vision in the gaming industry and the ‘Hard Rock’ gaming, hospitality and entertainment venues are iconic worldwide.  

“We look forward to providing an authentic, digital experience for Hard Rock’s global fan base within a comprehensive, omni-channel offering.”

The brand is already active in the betting and gaming sector, having launched sports betting and igaming in New Jersey and Iowa, originally in partnership with Gaming Innovation Group. 

However, after ending that partnership in September, it signed a new agreement with Scientific Games. 

In November, according to figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the operator generated $6.3m from its online casino offering, and $418,516 from sports betting.