ATLANTIC CITY — The vibe going through town on Thursday afternoon was equal parts excitement, curiosity, and confusion. Like a gravy train, sports betting is coming. But the casinos now have some work ahead of them before they can take a spoonful.
Executives weren't willing to talk about logistics on the record, so we took a spin down the Expressway and visited each of the seven active spots to see what the chatter was. The Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casinos won't open until the end of June. The Ocean Resort (former Revel), is planning a sportsbook dead smack in the middle of the gaming floor, which could be impressive. Or intrusive. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, here are some other observations:
There are some serious sportsbook possibilities at Bally's, which has an entertainment area called the Wild West Casino. This is as close to Vegas as Atlantic City gets. Beer pong, live bands, mechanical bulls, and the Mountain Bar is right in the middle of it all. There's a ton of space for TVs, tellers, and seating. Bally's is owned by Caesars Entertainment, and Caesars Palace has one of the nicest sports books in Vegas. They've been putting up huge televisions in the Wild West area, according to one employee.
Caesars and Bally's are connected and, again, owned by the same company, which led a few of the dealers and pit bosses to speculate whether they would need to even have a sportsbook to start. Fair question. If they do open one, the logical spot would be in the very front of the casino in the room that used to be their horse-racing parlor.
"They ought to bring in sports betting because that brings in the money," one guy at the valet exclaimed. Clearly, he's ready. Two spots for a sportsbook were speculated about. The first would be to transform the Internet gaming room in the middle of the casino floor. Unless they expanded it, that would be dreadful. The other was to put it where the Margaritaville bar is just off the Boardwalk. Resorts has one of the nicest beach bars in the city and a sportsbook just steps away would be pretty strong. Just hope the tellers don't mind wet money.
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There's a wide-open area near the Chickie's & Pete's restaurant at the north end of the casino, right off the boardwalk. This also would be perfect for beach and betting afternoons (while it's warm out). The Tropicana has one of the top sports bars in AC, which would certainly benefit from sports betting. "Oh my God," said a bartender at A Dam Good Sports Bar, "I can't wait until March Madness." Trust us, football season will be nuttier.
This seems to be the casino most ready to start taking sports wagers. The poker room is massive and the racebook is right next door, leaving plenty of opportunity for renovation. As one security guard put it, "We'll blow this out and make it the nicest [sportsbook] down here." A dealer said that many of her colleagues already had been in sportsbook training for several weeks. Also ran into some pit bosses who speculated that the Borgata could open sports betting on Monday. With the NBA Finals just about over, it's worth noting the World Cup starts on June 15. The Borgata could be the spot for that.
There was uncertainty about what sports betting would look like at the Nugget, given owner Tilman Fertitta also owns the NBA's Houston Rockets. But the potential law would allow them to take everything except NBA action. There are a couple of places for a sportsbook here, but the best appears to be way in the back, where some older folks were spinning the high-limit slots. It's a big, open room but it appears the infrastructure for a sportsbook still needs plenty of work.