Want to bet on the Kentucky Derby in Atlantic CityThe Race & Sports Book at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the only place to do it.

And if you plan on going, don’t bother reserving a seat. All of the seats for Derby Day (May 4) are booked and have been for several weeks.

Tom Gable, director of race and sportsbook operations for Borgata, spoke with NJ Gambling Sites about the big weekend ahead.

“The Kentucky Derby is the biggest weekend in racing in terms of handle, number of tickets written and just number of customers that come through the room.

“All of the Triple Crown race weekends are busy along with the Breeders Cup, but the Kentucky Derby is on another level.”

Borgata is preparing for a standing-room-only crowd. The 282 seats at Borgata Race & Sports Book along with its signature room (used for the overflow crowd) will be filled.

Commitment to horse race betting

Other Atlantic City casinos did have racebooks at one time. But Borgata is the only property still writing tickets in this new NJ sports betting era.

Those thinking the launch of sports betting apps would wipe it out, guess again. During the Atlantic City debut of March Madness betting, several customers could be found betting and cheering on the ponies.

Gable said Borgata remains committed to its horse racing business.

The team members and loyal customers (many who have been coming for 15-plus years) are the two things that keep it going strong. And many of the regulars are greeted on a first-name basis.

“The bonds that have developed between the customers and the team members is really something special to witness.”

The result is a strong connection. And it’s one that extends beyond Kentucky Derby betting.

“A lot of our customers come monthly or even weekly so the familiarity and the closeness is just something that occurs naturally.”

Inside Borgata Race + Sports Book

Borgata holds the distinction of being the first AC casino to offer retail sports betting.

On June 14, 2018, the first official bet took place. Former Philadelphia 76er Julius “Dr. J” Erving placed that bet on the same day sports betting launched at Monmouth Park.

For now, the racebook doubles as a temporary sportsbook. The space features:

  • 100 seats with individual flat-screen monitors
  • 10 betting windows
  • Kiosks available for horse racing bets
  • Video wall with screens to view live events
  • A completely nonsmoking atmosphere
  • Boot & Whip, an in-venue bar

Borgata sportsbook status check

But something exciting is coming this summer. Borgata’s new $11 million sportsbook is under construction.

And it means horse racing is staying where it is. The NJ sports betting crowd will settle into the new space footsteps away.

Gable is not sharing details on an opening date just yet. But he added, “We are on track to open in the summer, and we are very excited for it.”

The new room will offer the convenience of self-betting kiosks for sports as well.

Kentucky Derby + NJ sports betting

The Kentucky Derby is the top sporting event on tap this weekend, but far from the only one.

Here are other games likely to attract betting action on Saturday:

  • NBA: Warriors vs. Rockets Game 3
  • MLB: Phillies vs. Nationals (aka Bryce Harper’s former team)
  • NHL: Avalanche vs. Sharks Game 5
  • NHL: Blue Jackets vs. Bruins Game 5

Wagers can be made on these games using the playMGM sportsbook app. Or any of the 13 legal NJ online gambling sites available for sports betting.

But retail-wise, Gable said there is a crossover audience between the Derby bettors and the sports betting crowd.

“What we have also seen are customers who maybe haven’t come in for years but are now coming in to bet sports and they may stick around to bet a few horse races as well.”

Another Borgata sports betting first

The Kentucky Derby is looked at in a different light compared to March Madness betting and Super Bowl betting. This is the first year customers could legally bet on both events at the MGM-owned property.

And because it has never happened before, Gable said it’s tough to say what impact the scenario will have in terms of dollars or handle.

Being Atlantic City’s only race and sportsbook puts Borgata ahead of the field on Derby Day.

“The big advantage Borgata has next weekend is we are the only place in Atlantic City you can bet on the Kentucky Derby, which will naturally drive people to our book.

“So there definitely will be some residual business gained in sports just due to the volume of customers.”

Bill Gelman

About

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.