Long before Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to legalize NJ sports betting, well before the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA to clear the way for state-sanctioned wagering, Bruce Deifik had a vision.
“I was either going to have a great place for sports betting, or I was going to have a great place to watch a football game or a baseball game,” the Ocean Resort Casino owner said Tuesday. “We just got lucky.”
Courtesy of the SCOTUS ruling in May and Murphy’s signature a month later, Ocean Resort’s expansive, center-of-the-casino-floor is now home to arguably the most luxurious and extravagant sportsbook in the Garden State.
Come Thursday, just before the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Atlanta Falcons for the first game of the NFL season, the William Hill Sports Book will debut to the world at the former Revel. And down the road: an Ocean Resort online casino-integrated sports betting mobile platform.
Said Deifik: “It’s a big deal for us across the board.”
Ocean Resort sportsbook takes center stage for real
There’s nothing subtle about the William Hill Sports Book at Ocean Resort. The $6 million, 7,500-square-foot sportsbook sits dead-center of the casino floor. Guests enter the resort, Deifik agreed, and get smacked in the face by the sportsbook’s extravagance.
The space ran Deifik “millions and millions,” he said. “And it was worth it.” Despite what his colleagues initially thought.
“If you listen to a lot of my close friends, they say, ‘because Bruce is a moron,'” Deifik said as to why he chose to place the sportsbook in the middle of the casino floor. “Everyone thought putting my sportsbook in the middle of my casino floor was a really big problem because traditionally that’s not where you put a sportsbook. I’ve told people, pretty much to a person, ‘If you own the property, if you own the casino, you can put it anywhere you want. But because I own it with my family, I wanted to put it in the middle of my casino.'”
Now, Deifik said, “the same people who were naysayers are saying, ‘Wow, that’s really one of the great places we’ve ever seen.’
“I laugh because all of a sudden, I’ve got thousands of people taking responsibility for telling me that’s where we should put the sportsbook. And by the way, I’m happy to give them all their credit. Anybody that comes in and is having a good time, they can take all the credit that we put it right in the middle of our casino. As long as they’re having a great time and enjoying themselves, I’m OK with it.”
Amenities abound at Ocean Resort sportsbook
Patrons of the William Hill Sports Book will find it difficult to gaze around at the facility without becoming awestruck. Even some higher-ups from other Atlantic City casinos feel compelled to take it all in.
“I see a lot of my fellow operators from different properties inside my property over the last three, four, five weeks,” Deifik said. “I think that sends a pretty clear message that people are hearing very interesting things about Ocean. There’s no doubt that we have a great, world-class sportsbook, and it’s in a very good location.”
Two walls within the sportsbook are adorned with 45-foot, Unilumen LED televisions, highlighting a wide array of monitors that feature two different cable providers. A state-of-the-art, 360-degree sports ticker surrounds the lower bar. (Oh, and there’s an upper bar area.)
Theater-style seating and leather couches scatter the floor, while leather bar chairs pull up to counter-top seating areas.
A visit from a Vegas mainstay
Beginning Thursday, the day of the sportsbook’s ribbon-cutting, Brent Musburger will go live with his Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) talk show from one of the private suites that overlook the facility. Deifik said Musburger will continue to do so through Monday.
“We put a lot of money into building it out the right way, and we put it in a very, very expensive space in our property,” Deifik said. “But it was the right thing to do. And if you listen to people and you listen to their comments, it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
For friends, for family, for Atlantic City
Certainly, Deifik takes pride in boasting the crown jewel of sportsbooks in New Jersey.
Long had he planned on constructing such a facility. Finally, it has come to fruition. Pairing it with William Hill, which Deifik labels as “the gold standard for sports betting worldwide,” adds even more credibility.
“I don’t think timing could have been better,” Deifik said of the sportsbook opening in time for football. “The fact that we had it pretty much fully activated in time for NCAA football last Saturday (during a soft opening) … You could not get in the place. It was crazy how busy it was and how activated it was.”
Yet the sportsbook, as well as the planned online casino-integrated sports Ocean Resort sports betting platform powered by GAN, is not for the headlines, necessarily. It’s for the millions of people with whom he relates.
“For somebody like myself, that’s been a sports bettor who understands the enjoyment that people get with their buddies and pals and couples,” Deifik said, “it doesn’t matter if it’s March Madness or football, NFL Sunday or NCAA Saturday, Thursday night or Monday night, it’s really part of people’s lives to where they get through the weekend and work Monday and can’t wait until Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.
“To have a place where people can come and recreate and smile, to see people on Saturday, it was standing room only. You could hardly stand. People were enjoying it and having fun.”
It’s all for one and one for all
Deifik desires to build Atlantic City back to the go-to destination it once was.
To accomplish the feat, all of the city’s casinos and resorts and properties must band together more than simply competing against one another.
A strong start is the opening of two highly touted properties, Ocean Resort and Hard Rock Atlantic City. Another strong stride was the advent of retail and mobile sports betting, which makes New Jersey the only state outside of Nevada to do so.
“As Atlantic City continues to build a very solid foundation under its feet,” Deifik said, “sports betting and great sportsbooks and our properties up and down the Boardwalk and other places will be extremely beneficial for Atlantic City.”