Sports betting may still be relatively new to New Jersey, but Caesars Entertainment enters as a seasoned veteran.
Still, for Frank Kunovic, Monday felt “historic” at Bally’s Atlantic City.
The Caesars director of specialty games was on hand to witness Starlette Hedgepeth, from North Carolina, place the first bet at the Wild Wild West casino at Bally’s. She wagered on the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC championship.
Kunovic recalled Hedgepeth, during her bet, being surrounded by division-rival Philadelphia Eagles fans, who “let her know” what they thought of her selection.
“It was a great experience,” Kunovic laughed. “It was fun.”
For Caesars Entertainment, the fun has only just begun.
Bally’s and Harrah’s go live
For weeks, Caesars remained tight-lipped in regards to its NJ sports betting plans. Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on regulated wagering in mid-June, and properties such as Monmouth Park and Borgata quickly leaped at the opportunity to open sportsbooks.
Caesars, however, kept its cards close to the vest — until last week, when photos of temporary sportsbooks at Bally’s and Harrah’s emerged on Twitter. Then on Monday, Bally’s had its soft opening.
“It’s a big undertaking, launching two sportsbooks in such a short period of time,” Kunovic said. “We just wanted to make sure everything was in place. It’s just making sure everything was in place and all construction was done for the temporary (sportsbooks). We were just wanting to get everything ready for the soft launch.”
How will the two properties operate?
Bally’s and Harrah’s are only about 10 minutes away from each other, some three miles separating the two casinos. Yet both are expected to provide Caesars with unique customer experiences to prevent stepping on each other’s toes.
And in the near future, as it is done in Las Vegas, Bally’s should begin accepting tickets from its AC sister property and vice versa.
“It’s a future we’re working on doing out here, but that’s not something we’re currently going to do until we get some regulatory clearance,” Kunovic said. He noted that there is no specific regulation preventing the casinos from doing so, just a “matter of us getting it sorted out.”
“But in terms of thinking how a Vegas sportsbook operates,” he added, “that’s exactly the template we took and implemented here.”
As such, the two Caesars casinos will have their sports betting lines controlled out of the Vegas operations, Kunovic said. Lines will be the same at both Bally’s and Harrah’s.
What about Caesars AC and the future?
“At this point in time, I really can’t comment” on sports betting being implemented at Caesars, Kunovic said.
Caesars Entertainment did beat an eleventh-hour deadline July 16, submitting bids to offer sports betting at its properties. Bally’s would service the adjacent Caesars casino. But Caesars Entertainment did apply for mobile sports betting at all three of its Atlantic City locations.
That facet — mobile wagering — is the next focus for Caesars.
“I know the team’s working to get it as soon as possible,” Kunovic said. “I don’t have a date to give you. But I know we’re definitely working as fast as we can to get that up and running.”
Monday “felt historic” for Caesars, Kunovic said. The company essentially built a sports betting complex “from scratch” and brought in staffers, he said, “who, in all honesty, have very little sportsbook experience, if at all.
“But as operation goes on, people will get more confidence in the way we’re doing things. And by football season, we’ll be operating full-steam ahead.”