Golden Opportunity: Can Horse Racing Keep Up The Pace When The Sports Lockdown Ends?

Horse racing (and horse betting in NJ) have found new life amid the turmoil of the sports lockdown and pandemic, but can the racetracks keep up the pace?

In the sports-world battle to outlast the COVID-19 pandemic, does horse racing know it’s in the lead?

Technology gives the Sport of Kings, long vulnerable to brick-and-mortar casinos and its inability to entice young fans, a game-changing gift. Online bettors, including many New Jersey gamblers playing via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG, have come to its rescue.

Gamblers, and NJ gambling sites in particular, hold the sport’s future in the palm of their hands. Literally.

Handle has surged at tracks, without spectators, even for low-level claiming races, as multistate revenue sources dramatically boost the sport’s health.

Churchill Downs and Santa Anita each reported handle exceeding $14 million on May 23. These are terrific figures, dwarfing historic totals on these calendar days and suggesting a golden age if the total could be maintained.

Horse racing isn’t alone as a COVID-era success story. NASCAR and UFC have also managed to compete without spectators and entice bettors.

But horse racing should thrive even more because it operates nearly every day.

How horse racing has benefited from the sports lockdown

Horse racing has stumbled into a perfect storm of factors.

Big fields exist because most tracks are running delayed meets with fewer racing dates. The horses had nowhere to run throughout the spring, as facilities like Keeneland, Santa Anita, Laurel, Parx Racing, Indiana Grand, and Presque Isle postponed their seasons.

When the tracks did open, there was a glut of available horses.

Secondly, the fewer operating days tracks do have are far better.

The big fields produce multiple betting entries, enhanced wagering pools, and excellent payouts. The quality of the cards, top to bottom, exceed what they would have been before COVID-19.

Gamblers have few other options. Atlantic City casinos are closed. Baseball, basketball, and hockey involve numerous personnel and more logistics to reopen. Racing could be launched more quickly.

And of course, the industry has caught on to the high-action menu of Pick 4s, Pick 5s, Pick 6s, and carryovers. Churchill Downs wisely reduced takeout percentages from 22% to 15% on Pick 5s in 2018.

Nearly half the early money at Churchill Downs and Santa Anita this year has come from this category.

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Can horse betting lure new fans?

Racing observes an opportunity it hasn’t seen since simulcasting enhanced its revenues in the 1980s. This is the rarest of chances to lure new players, age groups and fans.

This is the opportunity to recruit the next generation of bettors before they regain more choices.

And it’s a short window, a period of perhaps weeks.

Horse racing needs to maximize this chance to recruit gamblers. Other sports have marketing muscle and a long-loyal fanbase ready to resume betting.

Horse racing doesn’t have that type of clout because it operates as a collection of individual tracks rather than a single entity.

What’s next for racetracks and horse betting post-pandemic

The betting competition will soon re-emerge, with each major sport greeting passionate players.

But before all of that, at least four solid days each week, racing can audition for New Jersey bettors.

Here are some industry suggestions:

  1. Lower the takeout percentage of the “exotics.” This includes the exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. At many tracks, they exceed 25% of one’s bet. That means the player loses 25 cents on the wager before even starting, an odds dilemma similar to the Big Wheel at a casino. Win, place, and show bets hover around 17% at many institutions.
  2. Why not drop the bigger bets to those levels? Online bettors already shift away from individual sportsbook operators when they feel there are insufficient free bets. They won’t stand for high takeout percentages when other options become available. Can you imagine the NFL with a 25% vig.? That’s what trifecta pools resemble now at most tracks. Hard-core racing fans complain and put up with it. Online bettors may not.
  3. Improve how horses are presented on television. Many bettors are “looks” players. They size up a horse’s potential based on physical aspects such as the coat, hind-quarter, and the stride during the post parade. Looks bettors have their keys and they need a good view of the horses. That means no shadows, showing every horse and keeping the angle on the animal long enough to present a profile. Bad camera angles prompt looks players to bet lightly or not at all. The industry has cost itself a small fortune over the years by getting this wrong.
  4. Make replay shows and handicapping pre-shows easily accessible. The industry is improving here, as Gulfstream Park has a handicapping show and a nightly replay program easily accessible. Some, like Santa Anita and Oaklawn, are putting this up on their website. This is paramount if the industry wants to educate its potential betting base, realizing that people routinely scour the internet to research bets. Data matters. It must be simple to attain.
  5. When COVID-19 is less in the public eye, entice fans back to the track. The live experience will cultivate those who can’t attend the track, but will want to wager remotely.
  6. Apply a less-is-more philosophy when “normalcy” returns. It’s better to run fewer days with big fields than multiple days with small fields. Fans have seen what the industry is capable of producing, from a quality standpoint. They are not going to accept less than that moving forward.

Can horse racing find new footing?

Owners, to their credit, are shelving protocol this year.

The bettors won’t care that the Belmont Stakes is now June 20 and will be 1 1/8 miles instead of the classic 1 1/2 miles. But on June 3, when Belmont re-opens for a 25-day meet that runs until July 12, they want to see good value, big fields and strong payouts.

When Delaware Park opens June 17, Monmouth Park on July 4 weekend, and Saratoga on July 16, the enticement again will be big fields and nice returns.

Yes, there are COVID complications that have rattled every industry, including this one. The order of everything is turned upside down.

For most sports, that’s not good.

For horse racing, long beset by in-fighting, and short-sightedness, this is not necessarily bad. Business needs to be done differently.

The gamblers are waiting, ready to click and play.

Can this industry, figuratively speaking, extend the race?

Jersey Sides & Totals – NFL Championship Weekend Headliners

Championship weekend kicks off with a FREE $1,000 bonus at DraftKings. NFL Playoffs 2020 + changing of the guard in the AFC makes for some interesting odds.

The final week of betting on the NFL before the Super Bowl takes place on Sunday with the Tennessee Titans at the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers at the San Francisco 49ers.

A changing of the guard in the AFC

The NFL playoffs this week start with Big Red.

The Chiefs find themselves in the driver’s seat and will host the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year.

Heading into the playoffs, conventional wisdom might have predicted either the New England Patriots or Chiefs traveling to the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens for this year’s title game. NJ sports betting customers are licking their chops for this one.

The Tennessee Titans disrupted that outlook with upsets wins at New England and Baltimore.

The Chiefs needed some magic of their own after being down 24-0 to storm back and thump the Houston Texans 51-31.

The Chiefs-Titans AFC Championship game matchup breaks some notable historical trends:

  • It will be the first time since 2010 that the New England Patriots will not play in the AFC Championship game.
  • Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes and Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill also break a streak of the AFC Championship Game, including either Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger in the last 17 years.

Mahomes has been an NFL starter for two seasons and will host the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year, which is not a bad start to a career. On the flip side, there’s Tannehill, who is enjoying the best year of his career at age 31.

Tannehill was acquired in the off-season from the Miami Dolphins for draft picks and now is one game away from the chance to head back to South Beach for the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 2.

It looks like Tannehill’s long-awaited “breakout year” is finally here in the NFL Playoffs 2020:

NFL playoffs 2020 Championship Weekend facts & trends

Odds highlighted in green have changed since you last viewed this table.

Tennessee at Kansas City 3:05 p.m. on CBS

  • The Titans beat the Chiefs 35-32 in Tennessee in Week 10.
  • Dating back to 2014, the Titans have been the underdog in four games versus the Chiefs, and the Titans have won each of the four games outright.
  • Chiefs coach Reid has a 1-5 record in conference championship games.
  • Chiefs are 6-3 ATS at home in Arrowhead Stadium this season and are 5-2 ATS in the role of home favorites.
  • With the total currently posted at 52.5 at DraftKings, note that the Titans are 1-11 ATS in all games where the total is greater than or equal to 49.5 since 1992.

Game and player props of note

  • Derrick Henry over/under total rushing yards: 109.5.
  • Tannehill over/under passing yards 235.5 (Note: In the Titans’ two playoff wins versus the Patriots and Ravens, Tannehill has thrown for 72 and 88 yards, respectively).
  • Patrick Mahomes over/under passing yards 302.5
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Green Bay at San Francisco (-7.5 Total of 45) 6:40 p.m. on FOX

  1. This is Green Bay’s third NFC Championship title game in the last six years, having lost in Seattle in 2014 and Atlanta in 2017.
  2. The 49ers beat the Packers 37-8  in San Francisco in Week 12
  3. Packers were 3-1 ATS as road underdogs in 2019
  4. The 49ers were 5-4 ATS at home in 2019
  5. 49ers are 1-6-1 against the spread when favored by six or more points

Game and Player Props of Note

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo over/under total passing yards: 249.5
  2. Aaron Rodgers over/under total passing yards: 239.5
  3. Total Receptions: Davante Adams, 6.5; George Kittle, 6.5; Deebo Samuel, 3.5; and Emmanuel Sanders, 3.5.
  4. Total Rushing Yards: Aaron Jones over/under 64.5

When it comes time to make your bets for Sunday’s NFL Championship games, be sure to check-in with DraftKings Sportsbook. The DraftKings app offers a full menu of game action.

DraftKings is offering a 10-1 boost for a “superstar” player to score the game’s first TD.

For example, the Titans’ Henry is listed at 5.5-1 to score the first TD, DraftKings is almost doubling his odds in this promo to 10-1.

In addition to all the game and parlay action, there is plenty of futures betting on the Super Bowl.  

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My picks from the Jersey side

A 2-1 record on the divisional weekend brought my 2019 season slate to 28-28-1.

The Chiefs game looked hopelessly lost in the second quarter until they stormed back to win and cover versus the Texans.

The Seahawks offense came to life in the second half to drive the total points to 51 over the total of 47. The Titans not only covered but thoroughly dominated the Ravens 28-12.

My Divisional round recap

Week 2-1, 2019 Season 28-28-1

  • Chiefs -9.5 over Texans  (Chiefs 51, Titans 31)
  • Packers and Seahawks under 47 (Packers 28, Seahawks 23)
  • Titans +9.5 over Ravens (Titans 28, Ravens 12)

My Championship weekend selections

To make my three-weekend picks, we had to think outside of the box to put together three picks for Sunday. Here are my picks for Championship:

Chiefs -7.5 over Titans

After spotting the Texans 24 points to start last week’s game, the Chiefs outscored Houston 51-7 to win going away.

The Chiefs realize they can’t afford another slow start against a Titans team that jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in Baltimore last week and never looked back.

I think the Chiefs start early and don’t look back, ending the Cinderella run of the Titans with a convincing 38-13 win.

Ryan Tannehill under 235.5 yards

The Titans haven’t asked Ryan Tannehill to do too much in their upset victories against the Patriots and the Ravens, throwing under 100 yards in both games. The Titans game plan has been to hand the ball to RB Derrick Henry 30+ times per game.

Unless the Titans fall way behind early, I don’t see them dramatically changing this strategy.

While Tannehill’s posted passing yardage total of 235.5 seems almost too good to be true, especially since its 75 yards higher than his combined total of the last two games (160), I still think that under the total is still a good play here.

Packers and 49ers over 45 points

When the Packers lost at San Francisco earlier in the season, it was one of Rodger’s worst games of his career in an ugly 34-8 loss.

Time is ticking on Rodgers’ career, and this may be the 36-year-old’s last shot to win a second Lombardi Trophy. Expect a vintage Rodgers on Sunday night, even against San Francisco’s top-rated defense.

On the opposite side of the ledger, the 49ers have a potent offense that has consistently scored points all season and face a Packers defense that can be susceptible to the big play.

I expect the 49ers to prevail in tight, high-scoring affair 34-30.

What does the “Future” Hold for the Eagles Playoff Chances?

The 2019 NFL regular season is in the books and the 12 playoff teams are frantically prepping for either their NFL 2020 Wild Card match-up this weekend or off a bye into next week’s Divisional Round.

For the Philadelphia Eagles, the lone local playoff representative, there’s zero time to bask in the glow of their December on-field accomplishments.

The Eagles began the month with a 5-7 record, then reeled off 4 straight victories to capture the NFC East crown and the right to host the Seattle Seahawks in a Wild Card playoff game this Sunday at the Linc. 

With the playoff seedings locked down for each of the 6 conference teams, it’s an opportune time to assess the NFL futures markets.

New Jersey sports bettors have a wide selection of NFL futures bets to consider across the 17 legal sports betting apps and 10 retail sportsbook locations.

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While every book has posted advance “future” odds for the NFC Champion, AFC Champion and Super Bowl winner, I wanted to highlight some of the more unique futures offerings that you can find across the mobile sportsbooks.

The William Hill Super Bowl “Exacta”

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William Hill is offering a bet typically found at the horse races, the “exacta” which requires the bettor not only to select the winner of the NFL Super Bowl but also their opponent.

For example, from the screenshot below, a 49’ers win over the Ravens is currently priced at 6-1:

The Extensive PointsBet NFL Futures Menu

nfl wildcard weekend

PointsBet currently has the most creative group of offerings for the NFL playoff futures, including the conference or division to win the Super Bowl and individual player props for most passing, receiving and rushing yards through the post-season. Here is a snapshot of their menu:

Interestingly, the current PointsBet market favorite for most rushing yards during the playoffs is Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, followed by his teammate, running back Mark Ingram:

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Promo Bet: “Who Will Reach the Super Bowl?”

BetMGM has a playoff future that offers pricing on the correct teams to make the Super Bowl:

nfl wildcard weekend

FanDuel’s “Team Elimination” Future Bet

One other future that deserves mention is the FanDuel “team elimination” wager. FanDuel has posted pricing as to which team will end the specific team’s playoff run. The Eagles are shown in the screengrab below.nfl wildcard 2020

So, if you think the Eagles will get by the Seahawks on Sunday, only to lose at Green Bay next weekend, the odds are 6.5 to 1. So, you can “win” even if your team should “lose.’ This is a unique future bet currently offered only by FanDuel for the NFL playoffs.

There are tons of great NFL future wagers out there and the menu will be updated throughout the month of January. Don’t hesitate to lock-in your play before the weekend gets underway if you happen to have a strong opinion.

For Eagles backers, here’s a top-line recap of the best team and player future prices as of Thursday afternoon on offer for the playoffs:


Super Bowl Winner: 50-1 (BetMGM)

NFC Championship: 18-1 (Caesars and ScoreBet)

  • Super Bowl MVP:
    • Carson Wentz, 40-1 (DraftKings and Bet365)
    • Miles Sanders, 50-1 (Bet365)
    • Zach Ertz, 66-1; Boston Scott, 100-1; Nelson Agholor 125-1; Fletcher Cox 150-1, Malcolm Jenkins 175-1 (All at Bet365).

Playoff Rushing Yardage Leader: Miles Sanders, 50-1 (DraftKings and PointsBet); Jordan Howard 100-1 (DraftKings and PointsBet).

Playoff Receiving Yardage Leader: Zach Ertz 33-1, (PointsBet/DraftKings); Nelson Agholor, 60-1 (PointsBet); Greg Ward, 80-1 (Draft Kings) and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, 100-1 (PointsBet/DraftKings)

Playoff Passing Yardage Leader: Carson Wentz, 33-1 (DraftKings).

There’s still plenty of time before the playoffs begin Saturday and the Eagles play Sunday to post your future bets.

Looking Towards the Eagles vs. Seahawks Playoff Game

As far as the Eagles game this Sunday goes, he current line and total information via William Hill:

Eagles +1.5 (+110 moneyline) vs Seahawks (-130) with a Total of 45 points

Here are some key totals and spread trends to consider when betting the Eagles this NFL WildCard weekend – Sunday courtesy of Don Best:

Eagles Over/Under Totals Trends

  • Under is 5-1 in their last 6 Wildcard games.
  • Under is 8-3 in their last 11 games following a straight-up win.
  • Under is 5-2 in their last 7 playoff games.
  • Under is 4-1 in their last 5 games played in January.
  • Under is 8-1-1 in their last 10 playoff home games.
  • Under is 5-1 in their last 6 games as a home underdog.
  • Under is 5-2 in their last 7 games vs. NFC.
  • Under is 4-1 in their last 5 games as underdogs.
  • Under is 5-2 in their last 7 games as a home underdog of between 0.5-3.0 points.

Eagles Trends Against the Spread (ATS)

  • 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games as a home underdog.
  • 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight-up win.
  • 5-0 ATS in their last 5 playoff games.
  • 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games following an ATS win.
  • 9-4 ATS in their last 13 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
  • 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games in January.
  • 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games as a home underdog.
  • 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games as an underdog of 0.5-3.0 points.
  • 4-0 ATS in their last 4 playoff games as an underdog of 0.5-3.0 points.
  • 10-1 ATS in their last 11 playoff games as an underdog.

When it comes time to make your bets for this weekend of NFL playoff action, make sure that you look at the William Hill sportsbook. William Hill has retail sportsbook locations at Monmouth Park racetrack and in Atlantic City at Ocean’s Resort and Tropicana.

If you can’t make it to their physical sportsbook locations, William Hill has you covered via their mobile sportsbook app as well as desktop.

William Hill offers player, team and game props for every playoff game as well as futures for the NFL playoffs. William Hill also offers in-game and live play wagering.  Be sure to go William Hill and check it out!

NFL Wildcard Weekend Playoff Schedule

AFC- Saturday, January 4th

4:35PM: Buffalo at Houston (-2.5 Total of 43.5) ESPN, with a simulcast on ABC

8:15PM: Tennessee at New England (-5, Total of 44) CBS

NFC-Sunday, January 5th

1:05PM: Minnesota at New Orleans (-8 Total of 49.5) FOX

4:40PM: Seattle at Philadelphia (+1.5, Total of 45) NBC

My Picks – from the Jersey Side

A 2-1 week 17  ended my regular season at 24-26-1. The Chiefs covered against the Chargers and the Bengals earned their 2nd win of the season by beating the Browns at home.

The Steelers, with their playoff hopes on the line, failed to get the job done by losing to the Ravens back-ups in Baltimore.

My Week 17 Recap

Week 2-1, Regular Season Final 24-26-1

Chiefs -8.5 over Chargers (Chiefs 31, Chargers 21)

Bengals +3 over Browns (Bengals 33, Browns 23)

Steelers -2 over Ravens (Ravens 28, Steelers 10)

My NFL Wild card WeekEnd Selections

Here are my picks for NFL wildcard weekend:

Vikings +8 over Saints

The Vikings gladly welcome their star running back, Dalvin Cook back to the lineup after he missed the last 2 games, losses at home to Green Bay and Chicago. The Vikings are right at home playing in a Dome, though the scene in New Orleans should be rocking on Sunday.

I think with Cook, a healthier Adam Thielen, plus Stefon Diggs gives the Vikings enough weapons to keep the game close, but the Saints prevail in what shapes up to be a 35-30 Saints shootout victory.

Eagles and Seahawks UNDER 45

These teams met in back in week 12 also in Philly with the Seahawks prevailing 17-9. The total for that game was 45.5. Since that game, both teams have continued to rack up injuries to key offensive personnel.

The Seahawks running back corps has been depleted with Chris Carson and Rashad Penny both out for the season, prompting the week 17 signing of Marshawn Lynch.

The Eagles injuries have been well-chronicled, especially at the receiving position with Carson Wentz accomplishing the rare feat of throwing for over 4,000 yards but not having a single receiver total at least 500 yards.

Factor in the massive UNDER trends I referenced above, this points to an UNDER play as part of what I think will be an Eagles victory, 20-14.

Patriots -5 over Titans

Something clearly is not quite right with this Patriots team. An uncharacteristic loss at home to the Dolphins last week cost them a week off and the first-round bye.

The Titans have been on a roll since replacing Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill at QB and running back Derrick Henry has been a sledgehammer through opposing defenses for most of the season. On paper and with logic, there should be an expected lean towards the Titans.

However, until Brady, Belichick and Co. prove otherwise, it’s still very tough to bet against the Patriots in this spot. Maybe this is the beginning of the end for the Patriots, one which they have disproven over countless times in previous years.

The Patriots always seem to find ways to win and to keep the ship moving in the right direction. I’m taking the playoff experience and legacy of the Patriots here over the Titans on Saturday. Patriots win and cover 28-17.

Five Things That Need To Change If Atlantic City Wants To Keep Winning

Atlantic City casinos have experienced their share of upbeat news, but the town is far from perfect. These five topics could be huge to future growth.

The latest Atlantic City casino revenue numbers are out, and the main headline remains the same:

Eleven straight months of revenue growth. And here are three reasons why:

To be fair, the two new casinos did impact first-quarter numbers released on Wednesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Gross operating profit for the industry decreased 29.6% for the quarter to $87 million.

But factor into the equation that more casinos mean less profit to go around, and the report is clearly a sign of AC being in flux.

But can Atlantic City’s nine casinos keep the momentum going?

With Memorial Day Weekend days away, business is not about to slow down. (Sports betting in New Jersey, however, could see a dip until NFL season comes around.)

There is still plenty of room for improvement. Addressing these five topics could be huge to the next phase of Atlantic City’s growth.

1. The former Trump Plaza must go

The name is gone, but the building formerly known as Trump Plaza remains. And it sticks out like an eyesore. 

It has been abandoned since 2014 — the year four NJ casinos closed. Five years later, it remains one of two properties showing no signs of life (The Atlantic Club is the other).

For now, the next chapter of Trump Plaza’s ending is on hold. It’s no secret that Icahn Enterprises would like to demolish the property. But if and when that does happen, what could replace it?

Putting another casino there is a bad idea. Ocean Casino — the former Revel (another property to close in ’14) — reopened on June 27 and got off to a bad start. We’re talking $23 million in the red.

And as the Q1 revenue results show, AC casinos are already seeing the effects of two additions.

When Trump Plaza opened in 1984, casino gambling in key Atlantic City feeder markets (Pennsylvania and New York included) did not exist. Today, the old brick-and-mortar concept no longer works.

But having prime real estate at Boardwalk Central does open the door to endless non-gambling opportunities.

If Atlantic City is going to be more than a summer destination, adding a mixed-use hotel, dining and entertainment destination makes sense. Visitors need things to do beyond slots and table games.

And going the family-friendly route, sort of like the neighboring Rainforest Cafe, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

2. Close the deal on Atlantic Club

Unlike Trump Plaza, The Atlantic Club (aka Golden Nugget, Bally’s Grand and The Hilton) sits alone in the Downbeach section of town. When talking about the future of this property, the all-too-familiar storyline is “deal falls through.”

The most recent occurred in October 2018. A promising deal with nearby Stockton University collapsed when the university’s attempt to purchase the property failed.

In 2017, the proposed water park deal didn’t pan out.

While closing the deal seems to be a difficult task, the reality is Stockton’s Atlantic City campus is within walking distance. And with student apartments included, building something that caters to the college crowd (including those under 21) and their families is a no-brainer.

A buyer with deep pockets could make it happen.

3. Show me the Showboat

The Showboat, also part of the Atlantic City casino crash of ’14, reopened as a non-gaming hotel two years later. Current owner Bart Blatstein continues to offer up some interesting concepts for the property.

The latest is the potential return of the Showboat Casino on the vacant land next door. Blatstein was granted preliminary approval to pursue a casino license in March. Not much in the way of details have come out since.

showboat casino vacant lot atlantic city

Plans to convert hotel rooms into apartments are on the table, too.

But the former casino floor is prime for a makeover. Take a look:

The old Nickel Poker and Mr. Cashman signs are still hanging. The empty floor is used for special events. Otherwise, it serves as a trip down memory lane complete with the old casino cashier windows.

Thanks to a deed restriction, gambling is not permitted on the current property. But there is no rule against converting the space into a sports bar.

Sports betting is generating new life in AC. Why not take advantage of it and cater to sports fans? Plus all 14 NJ mobile sports betting apps will work from inside the Showboat.

Or, maybe take things a step further by adding multiple entertainment and dining destinations.

Showboat has the advantage of attracting customers checking out the newer side of town. With the right concept, this 32-year-old property that once had its own bowling alley could become a true non-gaming destination that the Boardwalk desperately needs.

4. Caesars’ properties need some TLC

Whether or not Caesars Entertainment is sold may be the bigger story.

But in AC, it’s clear Caesars and Bally’s need to be the center of attention. The properties are celebrating their respective 40th anniversaries this year. Despite the staying power, keeping up with the times is key.

Both properties have their set of loyal customers, but what about the new players coming to the Jersey Shore? Many are seeking something unique and different from the basic casino experience available in neighboring states.

Hard Rock AC has the international brand recognition that blends A-list entertainers with the casino experience. Good luck finding a day when there is not at least some form of live entertainment on the property.

And despite its early struggles, Ocean has a wow factor in terms of a true resort experience. Plus, it’s a much newer building.

One year in, even more changes are on the horizon. Consider it one of several big events to look forward to this summer.

Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino seems to at least be on the right track. Sometime next month, Bally’s new retail sportsbook, aka The Book, is slated to open.

 

And with 15,228 square feet of sports betting space, it will be by far the biggest in Atlantic City. And there is no doubt a lot of first-time visitors will be checking out the fan caves.

Building on this momentum is the key to future growth.

Caesars, the company’s flagship brand, could use something new and exciting of its own. Has anyone noticed it’s the only property in town without a sportsbook?

Meanwhile, at Harrah’s Resort …

Sister property Harrah’s Resort has the right balance of what an Atlantic City casino needs. The 2,000-plus “hottest slot machines and video reel games” is certainly a strong starting point.

But the offerings extend well beyond the casino floor:

  • The Pool doubles as a tropical oasis (cabanas and bungalows, included) and one of the hottest nightclubs on the East Coast.
  • Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center features 125,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • The Book, the permanent version, is 3,800 square feet with plush seating for NFL viewing.

And while Harrah’s year-to-date land-based casino revenue is down 11.8% for the year (based on the April numbers released by the DGE), the property still generated $99,259,330.

That’s good enough for second best among AC properties. Borgata remains well in front of the pack with $213,812,774.

By comparison, Caesars came in at $81,465,818 (down 9.7%) while Bally’s finished at the bottom of the pack with $53,859,117 (down 7.1%).

5. Expand the AC airport

Atlantic City has its share of day trippers, but some coming from further distances arrive via Atlantic City International Airport.

Size-wise, it’s on the smaller scale with 180,000-square-foot terminal and 10 gates. And there is only one airline coming in and out — Spirit.

If Atlantic City is serious about becoming a year-round destination, it makes sense to expand the airport and have bigger carriers such as American and Southwest sending passengers into AC.

Right now, Philadelphia International remains the best bet.

However, it’s highly unlikely we will see AC International expand anytime soon. The South Jersey Transportation Authority currently runs the airport. And that scenario is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Back in March, the Press of Atlantic City mentioned the possibility of the Port Authority taking over the site. On paper, expanding flights and aviation services in Atlantic County would seem like a win-win.

US Congressman Turns To DOJ For Guidance On Sports Betting, Wire Act

US Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for clarity not only on legal sports betting but on revisiting the Wire Act.

On Thursday, the chairman of a House committee, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, sent a letter to the US Department of Justice to request guidance about federal oversight of sports betting.

If you recall, way back in September, the US Congress held its first hearing regarding legal sports betting after PASPA’s demise.

Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, sent the letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. More or less, the letter’s purpose is to determine what effects existing laws have on the practice of sports betting.

You can read the letter in full here.

The letter was sent on the same day that Pennsylvania started accepting wagers at one of its casinos. So as of today, there are six states who started taking legal wagers in the last six months. NJ sports betting, for its part, is in its fourth month and hit $260 million in handle in October.

What Sensenbrenner’s letter on sports betting asks

In the letter, Sensenbrenner asks Rosenstein for his opinions about the practice of sports betting in the US without the PASPA framework.

As befitting the chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, Sensenbrenner repeatedly mentions the dangers of criminal influence and exploitation in sports betting.

At heart, Sensenbrenner believes that Congress’ list of options regarding sports betting are as follows:

  1. Issue a new ban on sports betting.
  2. Create uniform federal standards on sports betting.
  3. Let each state decide its own standards.

Of course, Sensenbrenner undercuts one of those options in his very next sentence. He says:

“The worst option for Congress is to do nothing.”

Coincidentally, he used this same sentiment to conclude the hearing in September.

Ultimately, the questions for which Sensenbrenner wants answers are as follows:

  • Do you support the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that reinterpreted the Wire Act to permit online gambling?
  • What guidance, if any, is the Department of Justice currently providing to states that are entering the sports betting realm?
  • What issues do you foresee in sports betting (both legal and illegal) if Congress does not act in response to the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision?

Sensenbrenner asking the wrong questions

One of the most troubling aspects of Sensenbrenner’s investigation into sports betting is the congressman’s interpretation of the current status of things.

Many of his statements, both during the hearing and in this letter, suggest that he believes the demise of PASPA created a legal vacuum.

For instance, his invocation of the Wire Act of 1961 poses an interesting legal question. All federal laws must pertain to interstate activities, and sports betting, in its current form, has been strictly intrastate.

The Wire Act is also troubling because of its antiquated 1961 language. Sensenbrenner appears to be concerned about an interpretative question of law.

Thirdly, if Sensenbrenner’s chief concern is the prevention of criminal influence, he should be asking the DOJ about the existing enforcement measures being taken against illegal forms of gambling.

The seven states (which includes Nevada) that legalized sports betting already have regulations in place that could provide those answers.

Finally, he should be asking about how much uniformity there exists in the states’ regulatory schemes. For instance, most states prohibit wagering on high school athletics of any kind. So, a federal prohibition of same would be redundant.

Here are some questions that Sensenbrenner should be asking

With all that said, here is a list of potential questions that Sensenbrenner should be asking:

  1. Does the Wire Act have any kind of jurisdiction over sports betting in its current form?
  2. Should the Wire Act be amended to reflect modern advances and technology? Alternatively, should Congress draft a law as a wireless corollary to it?
  3. What is the status of each sports betting state’s safeguards regarding criminal activity and exploitation?
  4. What legal areas are remaining uncovered by the state laws and regulations on sports betting as they are currently written?

The main thing that Sensenbrenner should do is keep talking with experts on both sides of the issue. If he is bound and determined to do something about sports betting, it should, at least, be an informed decision.

FanDuel Sportsbook Gaffe Provides Lessons For NJ Sports Betting As A Whole

At the end of the day, FanDuel Sportsbook may have given the fledgling NJ sports betting market a chance to learn and improve the system.

It wasn’t the best week of publicity for FanDuel Sportsbook.

Even with its decision to pay off erroneous sports betting slips from the Denver Broncos’ win Sept. 16 over the Oakland Raiders, the New Jersey sportsbook garnered the wrong kind of attention last week.

Yet FanDuel’s arduous seven days provides lessons for future NJ sports betting operations.

#1: Making good when it didn’t have to

A “glitch” within the in-game system at the Meadowlands Racetrack last Sunday allowed “a small number of bets,” according to FanDuel, to take the Broncos — down two points and with possession late in the game — to beat Oakland at 750/1 odds during an 18-second window.

The result was a handful of tickets cashing in on inexplicably juiced odds, including one bettor turning $110 into more than $82,000.

Initially, the sportsbook in East Rutherford refused to pay, justified, in a way, by FanDuel Sportsbook’s house rules, which were approved by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement:

“FanDuel Sportsbook reserves the right to correct any obvious errors and to void any bets placed where such errors have occurred.”

Even DGE regulations address such an issue:

“A wagering operator shall not unilaterally rescind any wager pursuant to this chapter without the prior approval of the Division.”

After several days, FanDuel eventually made good on the tickets. But only after attracting the derision and contempt of the public.

FanDuel did not have to pay out winnings. But in a PR move, the sportsbook did so in order to maintain traction in an ever-growing regulated NJ market.

Recall that there are now eight online sportsbooks active in the state.

From FanDuel after announcing its decision to pay:

“Above all else, sports betting is supposed to be fun. As a result of a pricing error this weekend, it wasn’t for some of our customers. For eighteen seconds, bettors were offered odds paying out 750-1 on the Denver Broncos converting a 36 yard field goal. A 36 yard field goal has approximately an 85% chance of success, so the astronomical odds offered on something highly likely to occur was very obviously a pricing error. These kinds of issues are rare, but they do happen. We have clear house rules about how such obvious pricing errors are treated, which is to pay winners at the correct price.

“For those familiar with the industry these rules are understood, but we realize a lot of our customers are new to sports betting and were not familiar. We want FanDuel to be a sportsbook for all bettors, and we want sports betting to be fun. So, this one’s on the house. We are paying out these erroneous tickets and wish the lucky customers well. Going forward, we are working with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to improve our processes and procedures. We will also work with others in the industry on educating bettors on these and similar instances and how they work.”

The PR move is sound, regardless of time lost. The intent was to avoid driving away future business while emphasizing the regulations in place in order to avoid setting precedent.

The lesson here: Educating the public about such situations, as FanDuel did in its statement, leads to a more-informed market.

#2: Stronger, clearer procedures in place

As noted above, FanDuel, in its statement, mentioned its desire to “work with others in the industry” to better educate bettors. Though that education should not be exclusive to the public.

As the DGE said in a statement to Legal Sports Report:

“The Division will continue to work with FanDuel and the State’s other licensed sports wagering operators to ensure the implementation of industry-wide best practices.”

FanDuel said it aims to collaborate with other operators as well as with the DGE to “improve our processes and procedures.”

How can we avoid such a PR disaster in the future, if God forbid, it happens again? How can we prevent such issues from arising again?

For FanDuel, and other sportsbook operators, that begins with examining the system and its algorithms that generate the lines. Of course, before even opening, those operations are examined by the state to ensure accuracy and credibility.

So here’s lesson number two: No harm comes from assessing the stability of the system again… and again… and again…

#3: Improved training and ticket approval

When this story first surfaced, a number of followers considered how much human involvement occurred in issuing the betting slips.

From FanDuel’s statement, we can infer that very little, if any, existed.

That said, at least at the ticket counters, those slips have to exchange hands somehow. Why not use that time of human interaction to again confirm the accuracy of the wager?

Of course, sportsbook employees endure a training process before hitting the facility floor. Perhaps, though, another aspect of that process needs to be instituted.

After all, when employees issue betting slips, it is vital that they are able to recognize any mistakes. Especially when it comes to events with long odds, the more eyes that scan the slip, the better.

Obviously, not everyone can spend as much time as they need to sign off on each ticket with 100 percent confidence. But as one style of teaching indicates, reading information out loud is a solid way to absorb information.

Say this procedure was in place last week. The wager is accepted, the slip is printed, and the employee picks it up and reads aloud: “Bet is $110 for the Broncos to win at +75,000…”

Think that “glitch” would be caught? The odds would be better.

The final lesson: Improved training and ticket approvals can mean the difference

This past week has certainly provided a number of lessons from which FanDuel and its colleagues can learn. But rest assured, there are plenty more takeaways.

Hopefully, at least from the perspective of the NJ sports betting industry, there won’t be much more to come.