As most of you probably know by now, anyone 21 years of age or older residing in or visiting New Jersey can now bet on sports legally at two places.
One is the Race & Sports Book at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this summer. The other place is Monmouth Park in Oceanport, the state’s major thoroughbred racetrack.
Both places began offering the option to bet sports on June 14, just three days after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation. As of this writing, sports betting in Atlantic City is still limited to the Borgata — but not for long.
Starting Thursday, June 28, Atlantic City will have two new casinos, bringing the grand total to nine. Which ones will also have sportsbooks and how soon? This article will give you the most up-to-date information available, and my thoughts on each.
But let’s begin with a brief introduction on how NJ sports betting came to be a reality in the first place.
How legal NJ sports betting finally became a reality
Overturning of PASPA
New Jersey had been fighting for years for the legal right to offer sports betting at its casinos and racetracks, facing setback after setback in what seemed like a never-ending court battle going nowhere.
One of the biggest roadblocks was the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 — better known as PASPA. The law made sports betting in any form illegal in all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. These four states were exempt from PASPA due to their existing laws pertaining to certain forms of sports betting.
However, with the exception of Nevada, the options were extremely limited. Nevada was the only state with licensed sportsbooks offering full-scale betting.
That’s exactly how it was for a quarter of a century. Meanwhile, millions of people who wanted to bet on their favorite football, baseball, basketball, and hockey teams and/or other major sporting events but couldn’t conveniently travel to Nevada weren’t deterred from placing bets illegally.
Then on May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declared PASPA unconstitutional. That historic ruling paved the way for each state to decide its own course of action, including if, when, where, and how legal state-run sports bets would be implemented and with what options.
As with online gambling, Delaware beat NJ to the punch
Many people assumed that New Jersey would be the first new state to offer full-scale sports betting pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling, but they were wrong.
Much like in 2013, when Delaware became the second state (after Nevada) to offer online legalized state-run online casino gambling and New Jersey the third, Delaware beat New Jersey to the punch again in being the first state outside Nevada to offer full-scale sports betting. Sports bets were being accepted on individual events at Delaware’s three casinos — Delaware Park, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, and Harrington Raceway & Casino — as of June 5, but not at the Borgata and Monmouth Park until June 14.
That meant that Delaware bettors could have action not only on the Belmont Stakes, but also on the last games of the NBA and NHL Finals. By the time sports betting came to New Jersey, both series were over.
All eyes on New Jersey sports betting
However, being first doesn’t always mean being the best. Despite being the third, rather than the first, of the three states that currently have state-run online casinos, New Jersey is the leader by far. Nevada and Delaware don’t even come close.
Likewise, with sports betting, even though New Jersey wasn’t the first state to follow in Nevada’s footsteps, how it fares is no less important. New Jersey is still in an excellent position to become the successful model that the many other states that will legalize sports betting in the months ahead will want to emulate.
But first, additional sportsbooks need to open at most — if not all — of the other Atlantic City casinos and the Meadowlands.
Let’s start with the Borgata Race & Sports Book and what it has to offer. Then we will tell you what plans, if any, are currently in the works at the other AC casinos.
Sports betting at Atlantic City casinos
Opening day at the Borgata
NBA legend Julius Erving did the honors of placing the first sports bet at the Borgata. Erving plunked down $5 on the Eagles to repeat as NFL champions in 2019. He is getting 8-1 odds, so if the bet wins, he will be ahead by $40.
However, the second bettor, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, had a different opinion on who would win next year’s Super Bowl. He bet $200 on the Packers at 10-1.
Gov. Murphy got the action underway at Monmouth with a $20 bet on Germany (at 9-2) to win the World Cup and a another $20 bet on the Devils (at 40-1) to win next year’s Stanley Cup. Later in the day, he stopped at the Borgata, where he bet another $20 on the NY Mets to beat the Cubs, which they did.
Borgata jumps ahead
The Borgata had a big advantage over the other six casinos since it was the only one with a currently operating racebook. So it came as no surprise at all that it was the first to offer sports betting in Atlantic City.
According to Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, Borgata was “determined to be first” and did what it had to do to be ready as soon as the governor gave the green light.
Marcus Glover, president of Borgata, said that there was a lot of advanced planning, with discussion already starting the previous October.
So renaming the race book the Race & Sports Book and setting it up to take sports wagers, too, was able to take place seamlessly. MGM Resorts, Borgata’s parent company, has vast experience in running sportsbooks in Las Vegas so it will be able to draw on their expertise in running the Atlantic City facility.
Unlike those casinos which have to start from scratch in a temporary makeshift location until such time as the operations can move to a permanent more suitable place, according to a Borgata press release dated June 14, the Borgata Race & Sports Book will remain where it is. However, there will be “significant enhancements” which are in the final stages of design.
What you can expect at the Borgata Race & Sports Book
The Borgata Race & Sports Book is conveniently located just steps away from the jitney entrance to the property, adjacent to the poker room and within easy escalator or elevator access to the lower level food court called the Marketplace (where burgers, pizza, salads, Asian, Mexican, and Italian fare are just a few of the choices).
The facility, which is now completely non-smoking, opens for betting at 11 a.m. daily (subject to change depending on game schedules). The room can seat up to 100 people, and each seat has its own individual flat screen monitor.
There are 10 betting windows, only three of which take sports wagers, while those betting on horses can place their bets either at the windows or at self-service kiosks. However, keep in mind that action is much slower now than it will be once football season starts. By then additional windows for sports betting will almost certainly be open to handle the crowds.
There is also a long video wall with multiple large screens showing all the important live action. A bar near the entrance should satisfy your beer or cocktail needs, but if you want food, too, you will have to go to the Marketplace downstairs to get it.
Sports betting options include but are not limited to baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. When I visited on June 16, the available bets included all of the following:
- Baseball – winner of the game and over or under a certain number of runs
- World Cup individual contests
- Canadian football
- Women’s basketball
- Futures – winner of 2019 Super Bowl, NBA title, and NHL title
That’s a lot of action!
Players should have no problem locating all the information they need to place their bets. The updated odds and everything else they need to know are clearly indicated both on the board and betting sheets. There is even a separate baseball stat sheet courtesy of Covers.com to help you with your baseball handicapping.
Ocean Resort Casino
Surprisingly, the second casino to offer sports betting in Atlantic City won’t be any of the other already existing casinos, but a newcomer, Ocean Resort Casino.
Owner Bruce Deifik has been very outspoken about his intention to offer a “world class” sportsbook on the premises as soon as possible, and those statements were made even before the Supreme Court issued its ruling.
On May 7, CEO Frank Leone confirmed that the resort would indeed open on June 28, the same day as Hard Rock. Then on May 25, Deifik announced that ORC was partnering with William Hill U.S. to provide a 7,500 square-foot sports book in the middle of the casino floor.
William Hill already operates 155 of the 183 sportsbooks in Nevada. Monmouth Park, which plans to replace its current temporary sports betting setup with a $5 million permanent sports betting facility, has also partnered with William Hill.
As for the sports book at Ocean Resort Casino, it will be so close to the gaming tables and slot machines that it will be easy for casino players who want to bet on sports to place their bets and then return to the same game. Private sportsbook suites for the Super Bowl and other major events will be another option.
Although the new sportsbook is not expected to be ready for about another six weeks, Ocean Resort Casino will offer sports betting in the meantime, starting June 28, at a temporary location.
Bally’s, Harrah’s, and Caesars
Sports betting is expected to be available at all three Caesars-owned locations in Atlantic City this summer. Reports indicate the target time frame is mid-August.
However, although a few published reports give that timeline for Caesars, I am inclined to believe that the sportsbooks will open a few weeks earlier in time for preseason football. There are no reported restrictions in the types of bets that the casinos will be able to offer.
I was not informed where the sportsbooks will be located. But the most likely spot at Harrah’s will be the betting windows that used to take horse bets, while at Bally’s, the Wild Wild West casino could be the designated location.
There have been reports of huge TVs being moved there. Another possibility at Bally’s would be the big room on the sixth floor that used to offer both poker and horse racing. Due to the very close proximity of Caesars to Bally’s, it is possible that Caesars won’t have a sportsbook, but if they do, the old poker room near the entrance seems like a good place for it.
Resorts has entered into a partnership with DraftKings to offer sports betting. It is reported by the Press of Atlantic City that the sportsbook will be located in the same room that is being used for internet gaming. The casino has not indicated the expected opening date.
Tropicana Atlantic City hasn’t been forthcoming about its plans. However, the Chickies & Pete’s sports bar would seem to be as good a place as any.
Golden Nugget is expected to start taking sports bets in September — in time for the start of the NFL season. However, because the casino owner, Tilman Fertitta, also owns the Houston Rockets, no bets can be taken on NBA games.
Hard Rock Atlantic City is another unknown entity on the matter of when and where, if at all, it will offer sports betting. Unlike Ocean Resort Casino, Hard Rock will not offer sports betting when it opens on June 28. That doesn’t mean there’s not still a strong possibility it will happen down the road — just not yet.
At the present time, the main focus is making sure opening weekend runs smoothly and delivering the top-notch entertainment nightly for which the brand is famous. Recent reports also seem to indicate that Hard Rock is in pursuit of a sportsbook partner.
A New York Times interview with Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen alluded to Hard Rock “preparing to announce a partnership with a company that would run a sports book in the new casino.” Whom or what that partnership will involve remains to be seen.
Hard Rock also faces a unique problem that may significantly limit its ability to offer sports betting in Atlantic City. Now that Hard Rock has purchased the naming rights to the stadium where the Miami Dolphins play and renamed it Hard Rock Stadium, the company’s agreement with the NFL and the Dolphins could include certain restrictions that it must abide by.
Meanwhile, even without sports betting, this casino should do fine. Slots, table games, restaurants, and above all, the music are certain to keep everybody who visits happily entertained.