Legal Super Bowl betting finally arrived in New Jersey on Sunday.
While this year’s game may not have generated the same level of excitement as last year’s game (Atlantic City is Philadelphia Eagles country, after all), eight open sportsbooks in the town certainly called for some sort of celebration.
Harrah’s sportsbook up first
A little less than two hours before the New England Patriots faced the Los Angeles Rams, I made my way to Harrah’s in the Marina District.
Being that the property only has a temporary space set up, I decided to check out the pregame scene. Plans for a more permanent space are in the works.
Would guests be placing bets here or would they take their business to one of the bigger sportsbooks in town?
As it turned out, it wasn’t too bad for Super Bowl Sunday. The line of bettors seemed to range between 10 to 20 people deep.
But the most impressive thing here was the seven pages of prop bets put together by the Caesars Entertainment team. Prop bets are huge on Super Bowl Sunday, but seven pages seemed insane.
I grab one of the cozy lounge chairs to see how crazy the betting options could be.
Who knew at the time that the player to score the first touchdown prop bet also would end up being the only player to score a touchdown? Those who went with New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (5/1 odds) wound up with winning tickets.
Another winning bet: Los Angeles Rams to score three total points. Go figure. (It paid 50/1 odds.)
Hard Rock sportsbook not wow-worthy yet
With the game now live, it was time to head over to the Boardwalk and check out the sports betting scene there.
Why a sportsbook opened without even an announcement of a ceremonial first bet seemed worth checking out. If nothing else, I was curious to see what Hard Rock AC put together.
I make my way through the casino to the betting windows in the back of the property and notice a couple of walls with screens showing the game. But something important was missing: seating.
It seems as though Hard Rock and its partner, Gaming Innovation Group, opened the betting windows to coincide with the Jan. 26 soft launch of its online sportsbook. And that’s it.
However, a giant construction wall nearby hints at something bigger and better still to come.
In any case, the bars and restaurants around the property seemed like a much more exciting scene.
DraftKings and the half-point win
At 5,000-plus square feet, this place was filled with a standing-room-only crowd.
Some people are watching the game from just outside the sportsbook. Others have their smartphones up, likely using the DraftKings Sportsbook app. A security guard stands by the roped off seating area.
Watching from just behind the seating area, I hear one customer talking about how he has a first-half bet on the Patriots (minus a half point). If Plan A falters, the backup plan is to bet New England in the second half. Obviously, a field goal by the Rams would do him no good.
When time expired in the first half and the Patriots were still ahead, at least one customer was going home a winner. Turns out that surrendering a half point ended up being more than enough.
“I am going to cash my ticket,” he said. “That’s a lucky seat.”
Big game party time at Ocean Resort
With little interest in watching Maroon 5 perform at halftime, it was time for a walk to Ocean Resort Casino.
While the Atlantic City Boardwalk seemed like a ghost town, one of the newest casinos in town was far from it.
The William Hill (Caesars Sportsbook), located smack dab in the middle of the casino floor, was filled with wall-to-wall people. Watching the game here seemed like a really bad idea.
But William Hill and Ocean also hosted the Ultimate Big Game free viewing party in Ovation Hall. Yes, it’s the same Ovation Hall that Maroon 5 played at when the property was known as Revel.
There was a small spread of chicken sandwiches, meatballs, hot dogs, soft pretzels and other stadium-style food. But the highlight was the large LED screen showing the game.
There wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
For the most part, it seemed there was not a huge rooting interest for the Patriots or Rams. That is until the Patriots’ fans woke up from what will eventually be billed as the biggest snoozefest in Super Bowl history.
Sixteen total points will do that.
With 4:17 left in the game, Jared Goff throws an interception, and those Pats fans (or happy sports bettors) start shouting, “That’s what I’m talking about!” A small Tom Brady chant even broke out.
Before heading home, I make another trip to the Caesars NJ sportsbook at Ocean Resort. It seemed there were a lot of Patriots bettors in the house, or at least, people who bet the under. The line at the betting windows was so long that it wrapped around the space and filtered into the busy casino floor.
And with that, I closed up my first Super Bowl Sunday in Atlantic City with legal sports betting. Bring on March Madness.