The market-leading resort in Atlantic City will invest more than $11 million into the development of a new sportsbook.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa announced its plans Wednesday to add a venue that will combine an entertaining bar environment with legal sports gambling.
The new Borgata sportsbook will debut this summer.
Borgata was the first Atlantic City casino to take a legal sports bet last June.
Since then, Borgata partnered with GVC Holdings to launch its mobile sports betting app, playMGM.
The online sportsbook brought in just under $200,000 in revenue in November. The casino, including its temporary sportsbook, topped more than $1 million in total revenue in sports wagers for the month.
Borgata sportsbook gets new life
As New Jersey sports betting continues to get more popular and grow, AC casinos must adjust to make its sportsbook experience more appealing to potential customers.
With this plan set in stone, Borgata is taking another step forward in solidifying its place among the top of the NJ sports betting market.
Marcus Glover, president and COO for Borgata, was eager to to put the plans in motion:
“Since Borgata arrived in the Atlantic City market more than 15 years ago, we have maintained a steadfast dedication to property growth and development, with our new concept exemplifying this objective. We are proud to have been at the forefront of legalized sports betting in New Jersey and look forward to advancing our product with an innovative gaming and entertainment experience for our guests to enjoy.”
Borgata, owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, is hoping its expertise in sports betting can lead the casino to more success.
It’s unknown what amenities to expect at the new sportsbook; one can imagine it being on par with what MGM has been able to do in Las Vegas.
MGM has more than 25 years of experience in Nevada sports wagering. Its resorts pull in an annual handle of more than $1 billion.
Closing the gap in NJ sports betting
Despite having the ability to bet on sports within the casino, Borgata didn’t have a place dedicated strictly to being a sportsbook — until now. It has been using its pre-existing racebook as a temporary fixture.
This could be a large part of the discrepancy between the Borgata sportsbook revenue compared to others in the city.
The brand new William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino has been doing substantially better than Borgata. Its 7,500-square-foot area has been extremely profitable and has gotten great reviews.
Ocean’s retail book earned revenue of nearly $2 million in November, more than double Borgata.
By committing to a permanent area worth $11 million, Borgata is making a hard push to challenge Ocean. It hopes to claim the top spot in Atlantic City sports betting. Perhaps the new venue will differentiate Borgata from its peers and give bettors an unparalleled experience.
The year 2018 was a big one for Atlantic City.
But even so, many experts are concerned. They caution that being overly complacent could lead to big problems ahead. So what should the Atlantic City casinos do to avoid jeopardizing their future and continue to thrive even in the face of increased competition? Is copying the Vegas model a good bet for Atlantic City?
A brief history of casino gambling in the US
Casino gambling in the US has come a long way since the earliest modern-day casinos debuted in Nevada nearly a century ago.
However, even after May 1978 when Atlantic City became the first region outside of Nevada to offer legalized casino gambling, the growth of the casino industry in the US has been phenomenal.
Starting with the 1990s and continuing into the present century, the proliferation of casinos coast to coast has been so great that only a handful of states currently exist with no casinos at all.
Actually, the legislation in 1931 brought back rather than initiated legalized commercial gambling in Nevada. Limited forms of gambling were legal in the state from 1869 to 1909, when Nevada gambling once again became illegal and remained so until 1931.
However, the 1931 legislation resulted in “wide-open” gambling. That paved the way for casinos to open in hotels and eventually as the main attraction in complete “destination resorts.”
Early Las Vegas casinos
Looking at all the glittery mega-size casino resorts lining the Vegas Strip today, it’s hard to imagine there was a time that gambling in Vegas was on a small scale. Initially, it was mostly confined to downtown clubs and highway roadhouses. Then on April 3, 1941, El Rancho Vegas opened to become the first self-contained casino resort on what is now the world famous Vegas Strip.
Though tiny compared to the behemoth structures today, like the latter, it offered not just gambling, but also dining, drinks, lodging, entertainment and shopping.
Atlantic City casino gambling
As mentioned, until 1978, Nevada remained not only the first state in the US to offer legalized casino gambling but the only state.
Even so, 2018 already marked the 40th anniversary of legalized NJ casino gambling. At first, Resorts was the only game in town. But while that changed quickly, for over a decade, New Jersey was the only state other than Nevada where legal casinos existed.
A referendum on the state ballot in the November 2016 election asked NJ voters to say yes or no to expanding casino gambling to the northern part of the state. The consensus was that the competition from the additional casinos, which would have been much closer to NYC, would cause significant problems for Atlantic City. The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated.
Looking to the future
This means that the four-decade monopoly that Atlantic City has enjoyed on NJ casino gambling remains intact.
And there is a good chance that before the end of the year, other nearby states such as New York and Maryland could be joining the fold, too.
Atlantic City is also facing growing competition from casino gambling in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and other nearby states.
And Atlantic City has already felt the impact of this competition. In fact, since 2014, five Atlantic City casinos closed.
However, during the past year, Atlantic City has rebounded in a big way, with two new casino hotels — Hard Rock and Ocean Resort — both opening on June 28. New restaurants and entertainment venues have opened as well, and seven of the nine Atlantic City casinos have sportsbooks.
However, there is widespread concern that in the face of ever-increasing competition, not all of the nine Atlantic City casinos will be able to survive. According to a Jan. 9 report from The Press of Atlantic City, Ocean Resort Casino is already in financial trouble.
Should Atlantic City take a page out of the Vegas success story?
Initially, the primary source of revenue for casino properties in Las Vegas was casino gambling.
However, during the last 30 years, that has changed. The majority of the revenue from Las Vegas Strip casinos is now coming from sources other than gambling, such as hotel rooms, food and beverage costs, entertainment and retail shopping. Convention business has also been an important contributor. It is an approach that seems to be working fine.
Many casino gambling experts see the increased competition from other nearby gambling jurisdictions as a sign that Atlantic City casinos need to do likewise.
Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, had this to say in a recent Press of Atlantic City article:
“Since the inception of casino gaming in Atlantic City, the revenue mix for the city’s operations have weighted heavily on the side of gaming revenue. While this gaming-centric revenue model was successful for decades, when Atlantic City was ‘the only game in town,’ recent increases in regional competition for gaming dollars have challenged this approach. In high-density markets like Las Vegas, Nevada, casino properties have distinguished themselves from competitors and created sustainable revenue through embracing an integrated resort or ‘non-gaming revenue model.’”
Data show that compared to 1989, when gaming revenue accounted for just under 59 percent of the total for Vegas Strip casino properties, the percentage dropped to 48 percent in 1999, and less than 39 percent in 2009.
The percentage for 2018 was down further — to only 34 percent.
AC moving in the same direction, but not to the same extent
David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, feels that all of the Atlantic City casino properties need to increase their offering of non-gaming amenities. More options would “give visitors reasons besides gambling for visiting” and also “build the critical mass that is needed … to plan multiday trips, rather than just day trips.”
Schwartz admits that “incremental changes toward more non-gaming revenue” have occurred in some Atlantic City properties, but “it hasn’t been adopted universally as it was in Las Vegas.”
A divergent view: Don’t compare AC to Vegas
On the other hand, Kevin Ortzman, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and regional president of the Caesars Entertainment Corp. Atlantic City Properties, feels that the comparison to Las Vegas is unwarranted.
Ortzman maintains that the two casino gambling destinations are very different in many ways, including the following:
- Ease of access
- Customer base
- Length of stay
- Number of hotel rooms
Ortzman also completely disagrees with the notion that the Atlantic City casino industry isn’t doing enough to diversify its amenities.
On the contrary, he has called attention to the fact that “the Atlantic City casino industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years toward non-gaming amenities.” Among them are the Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center and Tropicana’s expansion of the Quarter — to name two.
The times they are a changing
According to Ortzman, “Atlantic City has greatly increased its non-gaming amenities in response to a changing market.”
“In fact, for over a decade, the Atlantic City casino industry has worked to solidify the seaside resort’s comeback by diversifying Atlantic City’s offerings, as well as investing hundreds of millions of dollars in redevelopment projects and non-gaming services to attract new visitors. During that period the casino industry has been and continues to be focused on transforming Atlantic City from a predominantly gaming location to a diverse beachfront destination, where gambling is just one of the many activities bringing visitors to this great city each day.”
Changes in the percentage of gaming vs. non-gaming revenue in Atlantic City in recent years
Back in 2000, there were 12 casinos in Atlantic City, and gaming revenue accounted for nearly 82 percent of the total.
However, in 2017, with the number of casinos in Atlantic City down to seven, the percentage of revenue coming from gaming was 73 percent. The data for 2018 through September, including the two new casinos that opened in June, showed a further decrease. Fifty-seven percent of the revenue was coming from gaming versus 43 percent from non-gaming offerings.
However, at both Hard Rock and Ocean Resort, only 45 percent of the casino’s revenue was coming from gaming and the remaining 55 percent from non-gaming.
So those two casinos helped lower the percentage of gaming revenue for all of the AC casinos combined.
The future of Atlantic City
There has been a movement away from the original gaming-centric model of how casino properties should operate.
Instead, the services and amenities are of a more diversified nature. However, the shift in the respective percentages of revenue from gaming and non-gaming sources in AC has been nowhere near as dramatic as it has been in Las Vegas.
According to Ortzman, it doesn’t need to be since the dollar amount of gaming revenue has been increasing. However, it remains to be seen whether his assessment is correct or the experts who advocate emulating the Vegas model have a valid point.
Between the leftover Halloween candy still in your cupboard and Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, November could be a tough month indeed if you’re trying to watch your weight.
Even if you can surmount those hurdles Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City is going all out to make its own once-a-year Savor Borgata special events taking place this weekend not only enticing but irresistible.
Since Savor Borgata happens to be the biggest and best food and wine extravaganza in Atlantic City, my advice is to go ahead and enjoy yourself.
Other special food promotions in Atlantic City
Over the course of the year, different Atlantic City casinos have held special events centered around food and wine. For example, last spring the Tropicana celebrated Bacon Week and during the summer, Golden Nugget held its annual Wine Fest.
In addition, the current annual 50 Bites promotion, in which many Atlantic City casino restaurants are participating, continues through Nov. 29. Ordinarily, the cost is $50 per person, but tickets are now bargain priced at only $25 per person.
What makes Savor Borgata different
All of the above relatively small-scale events, and many more, are worth attending. However, they are just a warm-up for Savor Borgata. This is a festival that receives national attention and food lovers from all over the country come to check out.
So should you, even if you do most of your casino play online. Even if you live some distance away from Atlantic City, availing yourself of the opportunity to sample exquisite creations prepared by some of the top chefs in America makes it worth the trip.
There is no doubt that playing your favorite games on NJ gambling websites is fun and convenient. But one thing that’s missing there and you have to travel to Atlantic City to experience is the outstanding offering of world class casino restaurants.
While the Atlantic City casino hotels have always offered eclectic and sometimes superior dining, now more than ever before, some of the best restaurants in town are owned by and feature the cuisine of celebrity chefs. And no Atlantic City casino resort has more celebrity chefs under one roof than the Borgata.
Savor Borgata offers the ultimate food and wine experience
Of course, you can visit the Borgata anytime you like and eat at the restaurant of your choice. But some of these places are quite expensive. Maybe there is a particular restaurant there you have wanted to try for a long time, but have hesitated due to the price.
Or maybe you’re a food and wine connoisseur who is highly interested in meeting the master chefs behind these restaurants and learning some of their special culinary secrets. If it’s simply a random day when you go, it’s highly unlikely that you will have that opportunity.
During Savor Borgata Restaurant Week, which started Monday, November 5 and ends with dinner Friday, November 9, you can enjoy a three-course lunch or dinner at select restaurants for a greatly reduced price.
During Savor Borgata Weekend—Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10—no less than 18 special events will take place. The lineup includes cooking demonstrations, book signings, hands-on lessons from Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Wolfgang Puck, and gourmet meals prepared especially for this occasion.
Savor Borgata Restaurant Week
Friday, Nov. 9 is the last day. Here is the list of participating restaurants:
Lunch – 3 Course Meal | $19 per person
Dinner – 3 Course Meal | $39 per person
Dinner – 3 Course Meal | $65 per person
If you plan to have dinner during Savor Borgata Restaurant Week, reservations are a must. You can make your reservations online or, if you prefer, by calling the restaurant directly.
If you wish to stay overnight, check with the hotel to see if the special room package including a $100 fine dining credit is still available.
Savor Borgata Weekend
Unfortunately, many of the special events this weekend are already “sold out.” However, if you would like to attend and have a host, maybe he or she can pull some strings and get you a ticket. It’s certainly worth a try.
Of course, even the events that are still available could sell out later. So your best bet is to decide now what interests you the most and book those events online. Complete details on all of the Savor Borgata Weekend events, including the sold out ones, along with instructions for reserving those that are still available, are provided here.
Below is a list and brief description of the events for which tickets are still available.
Friday, Nov. 9
- Chef’s Table at Borgata Buffet: 7 p.m., $69
In addition to the award-winning regular Buffet, the meal includes Executive Chef Tom Biglan’s family-style favorites and signature cuts of meat served tableside, accompanied by red or white wine.
- Vibes and Vino: 8 p.m., Central Conference Center Room 2, $69 – Get sommelier and music expert Rob Bigelow’s take on which wines pair best with which songs. See if you agree after you taste the wines!
Saturday, Nov. 10
- Pantry Pampered: Food Facials at Immersion Pool: 9:30 a.m., $65 – Includes light bites offered during your spa treatment and a 20 percent discount on any other spa services the same weekend.
- Tour of the Taste Buds: 12 noon, N.O.W., $44 – Get to sample all five basic taste sensations in small plates paired with Asian cocktails.
- In the Kitchen with Executive Chef Tom Biglan: 1 p.m. at Starbucks, $65 – Behind the scenes look at what’s entailed in the preparation, followed by a four-course tasting menu with wine.
- Playing with Pinot Noir: 2 p.m., Central Conference Center Room 2, $65 – Seminar led by Sommelier Robert Bigelow with wine tastings and light bites
- Sugar and Spice: 3 p.m. Event Center, Studio 2, $39 – Hands-on class with Borgata’s Executive Pastry Chef on how to make gingerbread.
- Playing with Fire by Michael Symon Book Signing: 3:30 p.m. at Angeline – No reservations needed. Free except for optional book purchase.
- Tacos and Tequila: 4 p.m. at the Gypsy Bar, $44 – Small plates and tequila pairings
If it’s any consolation, most of the other events, which are sold out, are considerably more expensive.
There’s something for everyone at Savor Borgata
Savor Borgata is a unique experience offering something for everyone. Furthermore, all of the Restaurant Week meals and many weekend events are reasonably priced, so if cost is a factor, no problem. You can still attend. However, in virtually all instances, alcohol is served, so you must be 21 or older.
Don’t miss this once a year opportunity to indulge your cravings and tantalize your taste buds at the biggest food and wine festival in Atlantic City.
Don’t think for one minute that Halloween is for kids only. Not if you can get to Atlantic City where every casino in town is all geared up to give you and your companions a howling good time. But Tropicana is one place you can always count on year after year to go the extra mile to make Halloween and the days leading up to it spooktacular.
However, this year lucky you can start celebrating extra early. In fact, since Halloween falls midweek, this Saturday night is when all the big parties take place instead.
Otherwise, is Halloweek at the Trop going to be any different or less over the top than in previous years? Check it out for yourself. Between spooky looking food and drink specials galore and the Jamie Lee Curtis film “Halloween” playing at the IMAX Theater all week long, the answer is obvious. Not a ghost of a chance!
What’s happening at Trop on Saturday, Oct. 27
This casino hotel has so many Halloween parties going on in so many places, along with some must see to be believed costume contests, scary movies, and other creepy entertainment, there is probably no way you’re going to fit in everything. But if you want to try, arrive early and plan to stay very late so you can squeeze in as much fun as possible.
Here is what’s on tap Saturday afternoon and evening, into the wee hours of the morning.
Time: 8 p.m.
Dance to the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Time: 9 p.m.
Place: The Quarter
Annual Costume Contest
Sat., Oct. 27 only
Halloween: The IMAX Experience: 1 p.m., 3:45 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 11 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 28 – Thurs., Nov. 1
Halloween: The IMAX Experience: 1 p.m., 3:45 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 9:15 p.m.
Tickets for any of the above can be purchased online as well as at the IMAX Box Office in the Quarter.
Halloween parties and costume contests
This is what Halloween is all about. So if you have a really outlandish costume that you can’t wait to show off, there’s no better time and place to do it!
A Dam Good Sports Bar
- DJ from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
- Costume Contest at midnight.Prizes include $200 for best group costume and $100 gift certificate for sexiest costume.
- Nightmare on Anthem Street!
- Contortionists and other creepy performers
- Scariest costume contest with cash prizes
- After-hours party starting at 3 a.m.—continuing till 7 a.m.!
- Live entertainment from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Doors open 9 p.m. $20 entry fee.
- Halloween Bash with costume contest at midnight
Casa Taco & Tequila Bar
- DJ from 9 p.m. to midnight
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
Doors open 10:30 p.m.
- Fright Night in Havana Halloween Party with music by Latin Connection
- Midnight Madness
- Costume Contest with a Grand Prize of $500 cash!
- Halloween party with live music
- Costume contest at 11 p.m. It’s a $100 gift certificate for scariest and best cowboy/cowgirl costumes
Kiss Kiss Nightclub
Doors open 10:30 p.m. Sign up at the nightclub website for free admission up to 11:30 p.m.
- The Devil’s Graveyard Halloween Party
Ri-Ra Irish Pub
- Halloween party with live music from 10 p.m. to closing. No cover charge
- Costume contest at midnight. First place: $100, second place: $75, third place $75 Ri-Ra gift card
Halloween Food and Drink Specials
Clearly, if you’re looking for over the top Halloween entertainment, you’ll find plenty at the Trop, but when it comes to food and drinks, sticking to your budget will be a lot easier than you think. In fact, you can take advantage of extended Happy Hours with rock-bottom prices all over the resort.
A Dam Good Sports Bar
- $3 draft beer and $5 margaritas
- $5 domestic beer and Tito’s cocktails until midnight
- Happy Hour 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Drafts and bottled beer, sangria, and other select wines by the glass are specially priced at $3, $4, and $5, respectively. Food specials include $2 anticuchos, $3 empanadas, and $5 guacamole.
Broadway Burger Bar
- Happy Hour from 10:30 p.m. to closing: $3 Bud Lights; Jameson, Stoli Vodka, or Pyrat Rum for $5; Roca Patron for $6
Casa Taco & Tequila Bar
- Special Halloween food and drink menu Saturday and all week long
Chelsea Five Gastropub (on the 5th floor of the Chelsea Tower)
- Happy Hour 5 p.m.-8 p.m. every night except Mon. featuring $5 NJ beer or wine and $6 whiskey of the week
- Pumpkin or Oktoberfest beer at $6/pint
Planet Rose Karaoke
- $7 for a Fireball shot or 7 oz. Bud Light or $10 for two drinks and two karaoke songs
Ri-Ra Irish Pub
- Do these special Halloween concoctions look as creepy as they sound? Order a Brain Hemorrhage shot ($4) or Witches Brew or Jekyll and Gin Glowing Cocktail ($6) and find out!
Stop at the William Hill Sportsbook
As you can see, if celebrating Halloween is your thing, the Tropicana Atlantic City offers something for everyone. But if you’re a sports fan, too, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for. The Tropicana had been announcing for a long time that a sportsbook was in the works, but the opening date was mystery. Well, that day is here. The William Hill Sportsbook made its debut in the Tropicana North Tower on Thursday, Oct. 25.
I will be visiting the new sportsbook next week to see how it compares with the William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino and other Atlantic City sportsbooks. So look for my detailed review right here on NJ Gambling Websites soon. Meanwhile, check out Atlantic City’s newest sportsbook for yourself.
When all is said and done, 2018 will go down in history as a major year for Atlantic City.
Sports betting became legal, and for the first time in six years, instead of any casinos closing, on June 28, two new casinos opened. But that’s not all that this much-maligned but incredibly resilient vacation destination, seaside resort, and East Coast gambling mecca has to celebrate this year. 2018 is also the 40th anniversary of Atlantic City casino gambling.
This article will take a brief trip down memory lane and discuss what went both right and wrong for Atlantic City over the last 40 years, as well as where is headed from here. Let’s start with the relevant background on how Atlantic City casino gambling came about in the first place.
How New Jersey became the second state in the country to legalize casinos
Prior to 1978, casino gambling was legal in only one state: Nevada
Forty years ago, on May 26, 1978, New Jersey made history becoming the first state in the U.S. to follow in the footsteps of Nevada and offer legalized casino gambling, but only in Atlantic City. According to OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com, 28 states now have land-based casinos and only two states — Hawaii and Utah — do not allow gambling in any form.
However, the proliferation of casinos nationwide was by no means overnight. The process was many years in the making.
1976 referendum in New Jersey
The idea that building casinos in Atlantic City would be good for Atlantic City and the state of New Jersey had been under consideration for some time.
But before any casinos could legally operate in that state, there had to be laws permitting them, and before that could happen, the people of the state had to indicate that it was something they wanted. The referendum on the ballot in 1976 proposing casinos in Atlantic City was approved by 57 percent of NJ voters.
May 26, 1978: Atlantic City’s first casino opened
The final version of the bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Brendan T. Byrne on June 17, 1977. Nearly a year later, on May 26, 1978, the first Atlantic City casino opened for business.
How the various Atlantic City casinos have fared over the years
Resorts was the first Atlantic City casino
Resorts International was the first casino in Atlantic City that started it all.
On opening day, the lines to get in the place extended for blocks. After all, it was the only game in town. And it remained the only game in town until Caesars Boardwalk Regency (now simply Caesars) opened on June 26, 1979, as Atlantic City’s second casino.
Difficult times ahead
In the years that followed, other casinos opened, but not all of them were able to survive.
In fact, Hurricane Katrina and the recession adversely affected every property, and businesses in the entire town took a huge hit. However, some properties were able to cope with the economic uncertainty and the added problem of competition from casinos in neighboring states better than others.
40 turbulent years later, Atlantic City’s oldest casino is still going strong
As for Atlantic City’s first casino, now simply called Resorts, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Over the years, the aging property experienced a long and turbulent history and multiple ownership changes.
However, Resorts is still here. In fact, over the entire Memorial Day weekend, the property had a huge 40th-anniversary celebration. You can read all about that momentous occasion here. The excitement is far from over though, as Resorts continues to offer 40th anniversary-related special events and promotions all summer long.
Most importantly, the fact that Resorts has been able to get through the difficult periods and keep reinventing itself has served as a positive model for many other casinos, not only in Atlantic City but nationwide.
Other Atlantic City ups and downs
On the other hand, one poorly designed property, originally the Playboy Hotel and Casino, then the Atlantis, then Trump Regency, and finally Trump World’s Fair, seemed doomed from the start.
Another casino hotel, at the far south end of the Boardwalk, which was very successful early on as the Golden Nugget under the ownership of Steve Wynn, also went through multiple ownership changes, none of which worked. In its final incarnation as the Atlantic Club, the bankrupt casino closed its doors permanently in 2014 (one of a record four Atlantic City casinos to close that year).
The building has remained vacant ever since.
Then, out of the ashes, new life
However, not every closed casino in Atlantic City remained closed. The property first known as Trump’s Castle and later as Trump Marina reopened in 2011 under new ownership as a new Golden Nugget that has grown into one the town’s most successful properties.
Of course, the most recent instances of closed properties coming back to life again are the former Revel and the former Trump Taj Mahal.
The poorly conceived, extravagantly expensive, and doomed from the start Revel only lasted two years before it closed in 2014. But the property has undergone extensive renovations and been given new life as Ocean Resort Casino.
As for the Trump Taj Mahal, it wasn’t just renovated. In order to turn it into its replacement, Hard Rock Atlantic City, it was completely transformed inside and out. Both new casinos opened the same day on June 28.
What Atlantic City did right in the last 40 years
Looking back over the past 40 years, it is possible to see that where Atlantic City is now is a culmination of not only certain things that could have been done better but also of many things AC did right.
Atlantic City wasn’t always dealt a good hand, and no one who knows this city well is pretending that all its problems are behind it. But just as foresight, hard work, and perseverance have been the key to many of the positive changes that have already occurred, I believe that the same admirable traits will continue to serve Atlantic City well in the future.
A proud tradition of stepping up to the plate
Fortunately, Atlantic City is part of a state that has had a long and proud tradition of being willing to take the initiative and fight hard to bring about positive changes. Rather than sitting back and waiting to see if other parties would step up to the plate, New Jersey has not only repeatedly taken a leadership role but has been steadfast, no matter what roadblocks presented themselves on the way.
However, there might not have been any casinos in Atlantic City today to take the sports bets without the foresight and hard work that made casino gambling in this state a reality 40 years ago.
Creating a casino gambling environment of safety and integrity from the get-go
In the months leading up to the 1976 election when the referendum regarding casino gambling in Atlantic City was presented to New Jersey voters, supporters didn’t leave the outcome to chance.
Rather than gamble that a love of gambling would be sufficient for the majority to vote yes, they focused on assuring the public that all the proper precautions would be taken to create a casino gambling environment of safety and integrity. Otherwise, the majority of voters might have voted no to the referendum instead of yes, and Atlantic City’s history thereafter would have been completely different.
After the referendum passed, state legislators continued to do their job in putting together an extremely detailed and well-thought out final version of the bill. Then on June 17, 1977, Byrne signed the 156-page bill into law.
Among the law’s most important provisions were the following:
- A Casino Control Commission would be created to be in charge of licensing all New Jersey casinos and their key employees.
- A Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) would also be created, which would be responsible for investigating each casino’s financial stability and the background and qualifications of the owners and key employees. Based on its findings, the DGE would then make licensing recommendations to the Commission. The DGE would also be responsible for regulating each casino’s operations and enforcing compliance with the state’s casino gaming laws.
Some applicants were turned down
According to former Deputy Attorney General of the DGE Kevin O’Toole, some applicants for key executive positions were rejected because they didn’t pass scrutiny. Both the DGE and Casino Control Commission had to find the candidate acceptable.
Speaking at this year’s East Coast Gaming Conference at Harrah’s Resort on June 14, 2018, O’ Toole stated that “one of the bedrocks of the New Jersey casino gambling industry is licensing. All applicants had to show honesty and integrity of character.”
Michael Pollack, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, further pointed out that “a gaming license is a privilege, not a right.”
Another concern was the fact that when Resorts applied for its NJ casino license, its only prior casino experience was in a small country: the Bahamas. The Commission and DGE needed to ascertain whether casino experience of that nature was sufficient to operate a new casino in the US.
Although it meant having to be very selective and rejecting some candidates, the guiding principle was that it was better to be safe than risk being sorry later.
New Jersey, unlike Nevada, was in compliance from day one
Although casino gambling became legal in Nevada in 1931, questionable practices were rampant for many years.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board was not established until 1955, and it was not until the state’s Gaming Control Act was passed in 1959, that the Nevada Gaming Commission with additional regulatory responsibilities was also created. The long delay resulted in the industry being basically unregulated until then.
New Jersey, on the other hand, had the advantage of being able to review and draw upon the Nevada 1959 model and then improve it. As a result, Resorts and all other casinos that opened in Atlantic City thereafter were in compliance from day one.
There was not one instance in 40 years of any casino in Atlantic City being ordered to close due to shady practices or unethical or otherwise inappropriate or irresponsible management.
What could have been done better in Atlantic City in the last 40 years
Obviously, the tough times that Atlantic City experienced were brought on by a combination of factors, including some that no intervention by the state could have prevented.
However, one thing Atlantic City definitely could have done better was to make more of an effort to combat the growing negative perceptions many people had not only of casino gambling but of the town itself.
As a result, the false perception that bringing casinos into this area was a bad idea rather than a good idea was perpetuated. This negative mindset contributed to the long delay between the time when New Jersey became the second state in the US to offer casino gambling and the time it first appeared in other states as well.
Atlantic City is on the rise
Over the course of the 40 tumultuous years, critics have been very outspoken about the city’s problems and quick to blame many of them on the casinos. In fact, many people wrote Atlantic City off years ago as a place that would never recover.
But look at Atlantic City now. The area is definitely on the rise. It not only has two new casinos and legalized sports betting, but also a greater variety of non-gambling options than ever before.
New restaurants are opening up all over town. The biggest names in music are performing in the Atlantic City casino hotel arenas and on the beach. The Boardwalk is packed with families enjoying not only the delightful summer breeze, but a host of family-friendly activities. Atlantic City is definitely on the rise!
A message that needs to be sent NOW
Now Atlantic City is in a prime position to send a message to the rest of the country. And the best way to do it is not just by example, but by actively publicizing and promoting itself.
I don’t think Atlantic City and New Jersey are being given anywhere near the credit they’re due. The window of opportunity to change a lot of people’s negative perceptions into positive ones is now, but it won’t last forever. And now is the perfect time to keep the positive momentum alive and send the message that regulated casino gambling is one of many great things Atlantic City has going for it and that its best days are yet to come.
Not to take anything anyway from Atlantic City’s huge celebration of its 40th year of casino gambling and Resorts in particular for being the only casino there from day one and now also turning 40, because both achievements are remarkable.
But another Atlantic City casino resort has every right to celebrate, too, and that’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Congratulations to the Borgata not only for consistently leading the way and outperforming the competition in both overall revenue and in being innovative and forward-thinking, but in doing it year after year for 15 years!
Borgata Atlantic City has the right stuff
Since its inception in July 2003, the Borgata has consistently led all other Atlantic City casinos in gambling revenue month after month. Even during Atlantic City’s most turbulent years, when other casinos closed or were in danger of closing, the Borgata did more than just coast along — it was the in place for people to gather not only on weekends but any day.
Whether to gamble in the casino, feast on innovative dishes of celebrity chefs, see top headliners in the Event Center or dance the night away in the hottest clubs, as a sure bet to have fun, there was and still is no place like the Borgata.
As Rebecca King points out in her article in the July 5-11, 2018 issue of Atlantic City Weekly,
For the past 15 years, Borgata has been “booking the biggest headliners, collaborating with the best chefs and offering one of the most stylish nights A.C. has to offer.”
Partnership with MGM Resorts
In 2016, the Borgata in Atlantic City took another big leap forward in becoming part of the MGM Resorts International family.
Obviously, the partnership means bigger and better player benefits since you can now combine the player rewards earned at the Borgata with those earned at any other participating MGM Resorts casino.
In addition, most of the same sports (and horse races) that you can bet in the MGM-run sportsbooks in Las Vegas you can now bet at the Borgata, too. In fact, the partnership with MGM should be an enormous help in expediting the enhancements to the Borgata Race & Sports Book now in progress.
What is the secret to Borgata’s great success?
Undoubtedly, a combination of factors has contributed to the continuing success and popularity of this casino resort.
However, one important contributor has to be the fact that this has never been a casino to rest on its laurels. Instead, Borgata has always been one step ahead of its competitors, continually growing and evolving with the times and offering exciting new options to meet the changing demands of today’s and tomorrow’s clientele.
Here are just a few of the amenities that guests can look forward to when they visit.
- More than 3,500 slot games and more than 180 table games
- The largest poker room in Atlantic City
- Eclectic fine dining options including restaurants by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Wolfgang Puck, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Michael Schulson
- Some of the top names in entertainment at the Event Center and Music Box
- Premier Nightclub
- The Water Club
- Marketplace Eatery, Borgata Beer Garden, and outdoor pool
- $50 million guest room redesign in 2012 and another $50 million spent on property-wide renovations in 2016
- Only Atlantic City casino with a race book
- First Atlantic City casino to offer sports betting
At the forefront of innovation
Mike Woodside, Borgata’s vice president of marketing, attributes the property’s phenomenal success in large part to the “amazing group of brilliant and creative team members who are always on the forefront of new and innovative initiatives.”
He also stated that “constant reinvention of our business has been a core principle” from the get-go and the plan is to “continue pushing the envelope and developing the type of exciting and engaging product that our customers have come to anticipate and expect.”
A casino that prides itself not only on being the best, but being first
Many years ago, the Borgata was the first casino not only in Atlantic City, but in the whole country, to introduce coinless slot machines. Then in 2013, the Borgata was the first Atlantic City casino to be granted an NJ online gambling license.
Now fast forward another five years to the present. The Borgata was the first Atlantic City casino to open a sportsbook!
No wonder, an average of 3,500 to 5,500 people visit the Borgata every day.
Borgata celebrates its 15th anniversary all summer long
Special occasions call for big celebrations, and this summer the Borgata is planning lots of them.
Following up on the elaborate dinner party at Old Homestead on Friday, July 6, two more Borgata restaurants are hosting their own big dinner parties in August.
- Friday, Aug. 3: Izakaya’s 10th Birthday: Seatings at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m, $100
- Saturday, Aug. 11: Sunset party with Wolfgang Puck at the Borgata Water Club Outdoor Pool, 7 p.m., $150
Then circle Saturday, Sept. 1 on your calendar, too, for your last cookout of the summer. At 1 p.m., the Gypsy Bar is hosting a Ketel One Summer Cookout. The cost is $44.
The Borgata has also scheduled lots of megastar entertainment. While both Britney Spears and Cher are reportedly “sold out,” some of the other headliners you can still get tickets for are Halsey (July 14), Jerry Seinfeld (July 27),Camila Cabello (July 30), Kings of Leon (Aug. 5), and Stevie Wonder (Aug. 25 and 26).
There’s no doubt about it — with so many exciting things happening at the Borgata all summer long, this is a place you will want to visit often.
Congratulations and Happy Birthday to Atlantic City and especially to Resorts Hotel Casino on 40 amazing years of casino gambling.
And last, but not least: Congratulations and Happy Birthday to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa as it celebrates its 15th big year in Atlantic City.
When it comes to slots, the looser the better.
Therefore, when it comes to determining the Atlantic City casino with the best slots, there is really only one statistic that matters: return to player rate (RTP).
For games in a casino, the odds of winning are expressed in RTP.
Essentially, RTP is the percentage of money bet on a game that the game will ultimately pay back to players. If a game has a 90 percent RTP, for every $100 bet on it, a player should expect to win back $90.
However, RTP indicates the longterm performance of a game. This means it may take more than $100 in bets for the game to pay back that $90. Nothing is guaranteed, particularly in the short term, and a player may not ever see a slot’s true RTP realized before they run out of money playing it.
That said, RTP remains the best indicator of which casino has the loosest, and therefore best slots.
Atlantic City casino slots: Always look for RTP
According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s Atlantic City Casino Industry Casino Win Data For Calendar Year 2017 document, slots at the seven Atlantic City casinos operating last year had an overall average of 92.1 percent RTP. It’s no wonder slots are so popular.
The average RTP is actually much lower for the penny slots that appear to be the busiest in most Atlantic City casinos.
In fact, the one cent and two cent slots at Atlantic City casinos had an average of 88.7 percent RTP in 2017. The penny slots at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa were the best among them at 89.8 percent RTP. However, Borgata’s overall average RTP among slots of all denominations was 91.89 percent, below the industry average and far from the best in the business.
High roller slots pay much better across the board. The best $25 slots can be found at Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, where they had a 94.4 percent RTP last year. The Atlantic City average for $25 slots in 2017 was 92.5 percent RTP.
For $100 slots, Resorts Casino Hotel and Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City posted 94.1 and 94.2 percent RTP respectively last year. Numbers that were well above the 91.7 percent RTP industry average for $100 slots.
The loosest slots among the thousands at Atlantic City casinos in 2017 were actually the five-cent slot machines at Tropicana. These slots posted a 95.2 percent RTP on their way to becoming one of Atlantic City’s best bets last year.
Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City
Plus, they helped Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City post an overall average of 92.59 percent RTP on slots of all denominations, making the Trop the Atlantic City casino with the loosest and best slots.
Here’s a look at the average RTP on slots of all denominations for all seven Atlantic City casinos:
- Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City: 92.59 percent
- Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino: 92.24 percent
- Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino: 92.23 percent
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: 91.89 percent
- Resorts Casino Hotel: 91.82 percent
- Golden Nugget Atlantic City: 91.66 percent
- Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City: 91.44 percent
Slots at The Trop
One of the oldest and most storied casino properties in Atlantic City, the Tropicana currently boasts three floors of casino gaming with more than 3,000 slot machines and 135 table games. Resort amenities also include more than 2,000 hotel rooms, 26 restaurants, 25 shops, 20 bars and lounges, four pools, an IMAX Theater, a spa and a 2,000-seat showroom.
Tropicana prides itself on being a casino games innovator and boasts a selection of more than 2,400 different games it says surpasses the offerings of other Atlantic City casinos.
In terms of slots, the list includes everything from the newest slots available to a wide variety of classics. The games are in areas with engaging themes. Many feature linked and individual progressive jackpots. There also a rather large video poker area and a stylish and inviting High Limit slots lounge with a private concierge, restrooms, and hundreds of high-denomination slot games.
Tropicana’s history in Atlantic City
The origins of Tropicana Casino and Resort lie in The Ambassador Hotel, circa 1919.
The Ambassador infamously played host to the Atlantic City Conference for organized crime bosses. The likes of Al Capone, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano all attended.
The Ambassador closed in the 1970s. However, Ramada brought its bones back to life in 1981. The organization actually purchased the Ambassador in 1978 with plans to remodel. Ramada was forced by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and then-Gov. Brendan Byrne to demolish the property and build a new hotel and casino practically from the ground up, reusing only the steel framework from the old hotel.
Ramada bought the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Las Vegas in 1979 and decided to call the under-construction Boardwalk property Tropicana Atlantic City.
It opened in November 1981, with a 521-room hotel and casino. Renovations continued throughout the 1980s, adding a showroom, a second hotel tower, and the Tivoli Pier indoor amusement center. Tropicana Atlantic City became TropWorld Casino and Entertainment Resort.
Tropicana changes hands
Ramada ended the 1980s by selling the Las Vegas Tropicana. The mid-1990s saw another new hotel tower added and further renovations. A new poker, keno and off-track betting area opened, and the property was renamed Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City.
The early 2000s saw another new hotel tower, a parking garage, and increased meeting and convention space added. Plus, The Quarter at Tropicana, a 200,000-square-foot entertainment complex and shopping mall opened up.
Ownership landed in the hands of a company called Columbia Sussex in 2005. However, Columbia Sussex was denied a casino license in 2007. Ultimately, a trustee took control.
Carl Icahn steps in and out
A group of creditors led by billionaire Carl Icahn bought Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City out of bankruptcy in 2009.
Icahn ran the property under his Tropicana Entertainment Inc. umbrella. The company has made more than $200 million in upgrades, renovations, and enhancements since 2013.
However, Icahn announced plans to sell Tropicana Entertainment Inc.’s US casino properties, including Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City, to real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties in early 2018. As a part of the $1.85 billion deal, Eldorado Resorts will take over casino operations.
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.
It looks like sports betting will soon be coming to New Jersey casinos and racetracks.
Nevada has pretty much enjoyed a monopoly on the activity since well before 1992 when the federal government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). PASPA is the federal law that makes sports betting illegal everywhere except Nevada. Although, it also allows for parlay bets in Delaware and game square wagering in Montana.
New Jersey has been trying to skirt around PASPA since 2011 to make sports betting legal at casinos and racetracks in the state. Back then, lawmakers passed a bill seeking to legalize the activity, but professional and amateur sports leagues protested. They took New Jersey to court and were successful in having the new law struck down before anyone ever placed a bet.
Second effort for NJ sports betting
The state tried again in 2014. Lawmakers passed a second bill aimed at legalizing sports betting and the leagues filed suit again.
The courts struck down the NJ sports betting law for the second time, and after a series of failed appeals, the state asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear its case against PASPA. In the summer of 2017, it agreed to.
In December of last year, the state presented oral arguments against PASPA. These framed the federal ban on sports betting in the US as unconstitutional. And apparently, they did a very good job of it. Because most pundits believe that when the Supreme Court releases its decision sometime this spring or summer, it will land on New Jersey’s side.
Legal and regulated sports betting will be headed to the Garden State soon after. Casinos and racetracks will likely be ready to go within weeks. It will all happen very fast.
In the meantime, things are changing very rapidly over in America’s original sports betting capital as well.
Las Vegas growth and pro sports teams
Las Vegas has been labeled the country’s fastest-growing city more than once. However, a major professional sports betting franchise had always been missing. The leagues avoided gambling like the plague and showed zero interest in a city built on the casino industry’s back. Until recently.
The National Hockey League approved a Las Vegas expansion bid in June 2016. The Vegas Golden Knights began playing in the NHL this season, giving the city its first major sports franchise. But another even bigger one is coming.
National Football League owners approved the Oakland Raiders relocation to the US gambling mecca last year.
The Las Vegas Raiders will most likely start calling Las Vegas home in 2020 after the construction of a new $750 million stadium just west of the Las Vegas Strip is completed.
Once the move is complete, the city of sin will have gone from no sports franchises to two in the span of four years.
Atlantic City has casinos, but it’s hardly Las Vegas. Four years ago, both cities shared the distinction of not having any major sports franchises to call it home.
What’s next for Atlantic City?
Will things change for Atlantic City with a new and legal NJ sports betting market? Will it suddenly garner the same kind of interest from the professional sports leagues and their new relationship with the casino and gambling industry?
Unlike Nevada, New Jersey has a number of professional sports franchises operating inside its borders already. They’re just not in Atlantic City.
The NHL’s New Jersey Devils are based in Newark and play at that city’s Prudential Center. Although it remains the only major league franchise to use the state’s name, there are certainly others operating there.
Both of New York’s NFL teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets, play at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford’s Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Plus, New York’s Major League Soccer, the New York Red Bulls, play in Red Bull Arena in Harrison.
The state even had its own National Basketball Association team for 35 years. However, the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012.
None of the teams operating inside New Jersey have any need to move. Plus, Atlantic City has never shown any signs it can support a major sports franchise.
Sports betting on the Jersey Shore
Sports betting at the casinos might suddenly make Atlantic City a more attractive destination for a franchise. However, it’s important to remember that sports betting in New Jersey is likely to be found at racetracks as well.
Which means the state’s top sports franchises are already in close proximity to a place where legal sports betting is sure to come: The Meadowlands Racetrack inside the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets both play at MetLife Stadium inside the complex.
It’s also important to remember that the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey won’t suddenly change any professional sports league’s relationship with the casino and gaming industry.
The Raiders and the Golden Nights may be in the process of doing that. However, the relationship between the two industries isn’t much of one at this time. In fact, most pro sports leagues have clearly defined rules preventing casinos from owning franchises. Plus, players are prevented from signing endorsement deals with casinos and often prevented from attending any type of events there.
The more things change
These kinds of things would have to change drastically before Atlantic City would become an attractive destination for any sports league.
Of course, Atlantic City could certainly grow into a city that would be more attractive to a sports franchise from outside the state using the economic benefits and tax revenues legal sports betting is sure to bring.
But that’s likely to take a number of years. As a result, it’s not very likely that Atlantic City will follow in Las Vegas’ footsteps and start getting pro sports teams anytime soon, even if PASPA does fall this year.
By the summer of 2018, at least two new casinos are expected to be open in Atlantic City. But before the end of the year, there could be a third, which would bring the grand total back up to 10.
Last year, casino profits skyrocketed, proving that seven is indeed a lucky number. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that nine or 10 casinos will be as good or better for Atlantic City. TEN was certainly not a lucky number for Glenn Straub, but that’s another story entirely.
On the other hand, if ever the time was right to add new casinos to the mix, it would seem to be now. It’s a gamble, but that’s what this town is all about. If people weren’t willing to take risks, Atlantic City would never be what it is today.
New casinos in Atlantic City
In addition, Bart Blatstein, owner of the Showboat property is eager to restore casino gambling there as well. On August 31, 2014, in a much-criticized move, the previous owners, Caesars Entertainment, closed the casino at Showboat even though it was showing a profit. The Showboat was the second of four Atlantic City casinos to close that year.
Where will the new casinos be located, and when will they open?
Hard Rock Atlantic City
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City will be located on the site of the former Trump Taj Mahal, which Hard Rock International purchased from Carl Icahn last year for $50 million. However, Hard Rock has committed approximately $500 million to completely renovate the property.
Fans can rest assured that Hard Rock Atlantic City will not only offer the first class amenities they are looking for but set itself apart from other Atlantic City casinos by staying true to the theme for which the brand is known worldwide. Hard Rock Atlantic City will bear little resemblance to the former Taj.
Hard Rock AC opening date
Hard Rock Atlantic City is now scheduled to open in June of this year. Previously a Memorial Day weekend opening was projected, but surely everyone who has been patiently waiting a whole year for this momentous event can wait a couple of weeks longer.
While opening in time for the huge holiday weekend crowds would have been nice, I am actually glad it’s not happening. Nothing should detract from the limelight that should belong solely to Resorts that weekend as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
As of this writing, the precise opening date for Hard Rock Atlantic City has not yet been revealed. However, it will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, April 18, along with the entertainment lineup.
Ocean Resort Casino
In January 2018, the company AC Ocean Walk purchased the former Revel (aka TEN) from Straub for $200 million and renamed it Ocean Resort Casino. (Straub paid less than half that amount in 2015 to bring the company out of bankruptcy, then held on to it, doing nothing but making empty promises.)
Unfortunately, one of the many problems that almost certainly contributed to the original Revel’s demise was its remote location at the far north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Even with Jitney service, that problem will still exist when the casino reopens at the same 500 Boardwalk location unless the new owner is willing to provide shuttle service.
The distance from even the closest casinos, combined with the sprawling nature of the property itself entails more walking than most people can comfortably handle. However, an attached parking garage with space for 7,700 vehicles will certainly make the resort more accessible to drivers.
Partnership with Hyatt Hotels
The new owners have reportedly committed $175 million toward renovating the property. Other encouraging news is the partnership with Hyatt Hotels.
The Atlantic City resort will become part of the Hyatt brand’s Unbound Collection. Hyatt, besides being an instantly recognizable name in the hotel industry, offers considerable experience and expertise as the owner/operator of multiple other casino resorts both in the US and abroad. That and its large customer database make it ideally positioned to help Ocean Resort Casino overcome the massive disadvantage of being preceded by a casino hotel that was a failure from the get-go.
Summer opening expected
A sign with the new name is already up, and other signs around the property carry the message that “something beautiful is coming spring/summer of 2018.”
Spring may be a tad too optimistic. At this point, a summer opening is projected, but no definite date has been designated.
Caesars Entertainment initially sold the Showboat to Stockton University. However, the plan to convert it into a dorm for students never materialized, and in 2016, developer Bart Blatstein bought the Showboat from Stockton and reopened it as just a hotel.
Now, Blatstein wants a casino at his property, too. When Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort open, Showboat will find itself sandwiched in between two new and highly anticipated casinos.
The desire to reopen a casino is more than just wishful thinking on Blatstein’s part. In February 2018, he submitted his application for a gaming license to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). If he is found eligible, the Casino Control Commission will then render its decision. Then, assuming he is approved, he will still have to apply for a casino operator’s license.
Gambling on three new casinos in AC
All the games that can be played in a casino are games of chance, where any given player’s outcome can be either favorable or unfavorable. However, the same applies on a much bigger scale to a casino itself, particularly when it is a new venture starting from scratch. It’s a gamble, in which many things can go right, but also many things can go wrong, and one need look no farther than the history of Atlantic City for proof.
At this point, with none of the new casinos even open yet, all anyone can do is offer an educated guess. I will attempt to do that now for each of the projected new casinos, one at a time.
Hard Rock Atlantic City
This company not only has the financial resources to succeed in this highly competitive business, but also the expertise and experience. In fact, Hard Rock International already draws more than 100 million visitors annually to 288 currently operating properties in 74 locations.
Hard Rock manages to seamlessly blend together an instantly recognizable brand that appeals to different generations of visitors with meticulous attention to quality in every area of service.
In the words of Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International:
“If we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it.”
The new casino will offer 2,400 slot machines and about 130 table games. Along with the standard games, other betting options will include skill-based slots, betting on fantasy sports, and special gambling rooms for VIPs. In addition, guests will be able to enjoy such amenities as poolside and restaurant gambling, two state-of-the-art concert venues, additional concerts on the beach, and even an option to rent an electric guitar for room use.
Considering all that Hard Rock has going for it, it’s hard to envision any outcome but a resounding success.
Ocean Resort has its work cut out for it if it is to succeed with the same property that failed so dismally as the Revel. However, I think it is possible, and the partnership with Hyatt should help immensely.
The casino is expected to offer 2,200 slot machines and 100 table games. In addition, if and when sports betting becomes legalized in New Jersey, Ocean Resort expects to be ready with what Chairman Bruce Deifik calls a “best in market” state-of-the-art sportsbook.
The resort hopes to bring back some of the more successful Revel restaurants, as well as offer some exciting new dining options. Some of the other amenities will include the above-mentioned parking garage, a concert hall seating 5,700, and a high-end players club.
This facility is the biggest question mark. For starters, we don’t even know yet if Blatstein’s application will be approved. But even if it is, all the money in the world can’t make up for one glaring gap in his credentials: Blatstein has no casino experience.
What he brings to the table instead is an impressive resume as a very successful Philadelphia-based developer. He also owns multiple properties in Atlantic City, including the Playground (formerly the Pier at Caesars).
On the other hand, two years have elapsed since he acquired the Showboat. Other than reopening it as a hotel, there is no indication that he has done anything out of the ordinary there, such as offer dining or entertainment of anywhere near the same caliber as the leading Atlantic City casino resorts.
Many older gamblers have fond memories of the original Atlantic City Showboat and would love to see its casino reopen. However, it takes a lot more than deep pockets and real estate know-how to run a casino successfully.
Anticipation is high in Atlantic City
Like it or not, Atlantic City will soon have nine casinos again and possibly as many as 10. Whether or not the new casinos will succeed remains to be seen, but Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort are clearly in the game to win. And there’s a good chance they will win over a large segment of the gambling public.