Atlantic City’s largest sportsbook hosted its official grand opening celebration on Sunday.

The Book at Bally’s, all 15,228 square feet of it, hosted what resembled a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate party.

Cotton candy, Cracker Jack, and AC’s first self-serve beer wall, included.

But this gathering of several hundred NFL betting fans was not interested in a ribbon-cutting ceremony or speeches.

Kickoff for the Eagles-Washington Redskins game was fast approaching.

The line for the betting windows extended to the center of the Wild Wild Wild West Casino floor. That’s where the former temporary space was set up.

While all the betting action was taking place, there was a small ceremony nearby. Former Eagles’ Chris Long, Hollis Thomas and Fred Barnett came running through a giant banner as confetti was fired off.

Inside Bally’s sportsbook in Atlantic City

There was no need for someone famous to step up to one of the betting windows to place $100 bet on the Dallas Cowboys to cover against the New York Giants.

The Book, one of three new permanent spaces that opened back in June, is bigger than the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts (5,000 square feet) and William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Casino (7,500 square feet), combined.

Long, who won Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and Eagles, did pose for pics with fans.

Celebrities aside, the management team at Bally’s is “super excited” about the finished product.

The previously unused and vacant space located toward the back of the casino floor is now a gathering spot for thousands of football betting fans several days a week.

Besides having the massive space, the main attraction is the 98 foot by 18 foot, high-resolution LED television wall with surround sound.

And it can show up to 16 games at once. Sunday’s early viewing experience included:

  • Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings
  • Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs
  • New York Jets and Buffalo Bills
  • Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins
  • Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets

But more importantly, the massive sportsbook is an added attraction for the slower months.

Karie Hall, general manager at Bally’s AC, is looking forward to seeing what the new space does for the property.

“We get extra business in. People get an experience they didn’t get before. We are excited to see how well that translates throughout the fall and winter.” 

The NJ sports betting space services sister properties Bally’s and Caesars customers, too.

Barnett says Eagles have tools to go far

While the other properties around town held their respective opening NFL weekend festivities, fans at Bally’s enjoyed some added perks.

Long, Barnett and Thomas were on property signing autographs and mingling with fans.

During Barnett’s playing days, which included 1990-95 with the Eagles, sports betting was restricted to Nevada. At least legally.

Things have changed just a tad since.

Barnett said he is not the betting type. However, he is not one to shy away from talking about his former team.

Many of the NJ futures markets had the Eagles regular-season win total at 9.5.

Barnett did not take the wager, but he did offer this analysis:

“It’s really about everybody staying healthy because I really think they have the tools to go far.”

Will it be easy? Not necessarily.

“I tend to look at everybody else that they’re going to play against,” Barnett said. “So when I look at the league, in general, I think in order for them to be successful they’re going to have to play very hard this year because there are some pretty good teams out there that are stacked up.”

One of the big ifs is whether or not starting quarterback Carson Wentz can make it through the season healthy.

His career to date has included being sidelined with a torn ACL and fractured vertebrae.

Second-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld is out with a broken wrist. Current backup Josh McCown came out of retirement to sign with the Birds.

How about ’em Eagles

Of course, the Big Game is a topic for later in the season.

The bigger topic for Week 1 was whether or not the Eagles would cover the 10-point spread. It was the biggest on the board.

And coming out flat in the first half created a quiet vibe throughout the massive space. The huge crowd that had gathered at Bally’s sportsbook on Sunday was not prepared for that beginning.

Failing to cover the spread is one thing. Losing to the Redskins at home (20-7 at the half) clearly wouldn’t fly with fans.

A totally different team took the field in the second half.

Philadelphia scored 25 unanswered points. Suddenly, a game that was looking like the biggest upset of Week 1 was now well within reach.

The bettors who took the Eagles minus the points nearly ended up with a winning ticket, too.

That was until Redskins’ Trey Quinn caught a four-yard pass with six seconds on the clock. Eagles 32-27.

One spectator blurted out: “They beat the spread now.”

The Eagles moneyline, however, was a winner.

Next week’s crowd at Bally’s sportsbook will be hanging around much later as the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons don’t kick off until 8:20 p.m.

Call it to the start of much bigger potential plans.

“We would love to host a Super Bowl party here at The Book at Bally’s. That would be incredible,” Hall said.

February can’t come soon enough.

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.