ATLANTIC CITY — The first significant event since sports betting became legal in New Jersey will be Sunday, when France plays Croatia in the World Cup final. Croatia? The governor told us it was going to be Germany.
Atlantic City has two sportsbooks running, one at the Borgata, the other at Ocean Resort. Both 'books are adequate, but neither is a majestic parlor similar to what sports bettors might find in Vegas. But expansion, both properties have pledged, is coming.
The primary piece of advice for those coming to Atlantic City for Sunday's match is to get those bets in early. Even the day before. Remember, France-Croatia starts at 11 a.m. Nothing sadder, at least in legalized sports betting, than getting shut out at the window. Especially for a futbol bet.
Can't have Sunday Funday without a scouting report, so here's a comparison of A.C.'s two 'books.
Borgata – Though expansion is on the horizon, the current sportsbook is small, with just about all of the seating reserved for those playing the horses. The bar within the sportsbook, called the Boot N' Whip, has about nine seats, so hitting one of the Borgata's other bars is the play. The beer garden, which is a short walk, has possibilities. Watch it, though. Complimentary drink tickets can be redeemed only in the sportsbook.
Ocean Resort – Big advantage here. The temporary betting station Ocean is using has the odds boards right behind it, which is a better setup than the Borgata, which is on the side. There is more space here, including the 17 or so seats at the bar. Their expansion should be done by football season.
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Hours of operation
It opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday, which is an hour earlier than usual. Update: The Borgata's sportsbook is opening at 9 a.m. on Sunday, two hours earlier than usual.
Ocean Resort – Open from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. The adjacent bar is open 24 hours.
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Borgata – It's free with a player's card or $5 without. Valet is cool, but exiting can take a while depending on volume. The surface lots are closest to the sports book, but fully outdoors. Could be a hot walk through the parking lot. The self-park garage is on the opposite side of the casino from the sportsbook, but it's under shade and easy in and out.
Ocean Resort – Self-parking is free all summer with or without a player's card. Valet is $10 ($15 during high-volume times), but the self-park is the way to go. Try to get a spot on Level 6, which is where the casino is.
Borgata – A drop-off/pickup point has been set aside in the back of the casino, which is the entrance closest to the sportsbook. Very efficient.
Ocean Resort – No designated spot just yet, but the drop-off/pickup is right in front of the hotel at the valet station. It could get a little hairy if traffic is nuts, but that goes for just about every place. Also efficient.
Borgata – For Tuesday's semifinal between France and Belgium, 75 percent of the primary TV boards was dedicated to horse racing. Just four screens in the 'book had on the soccer game, and without the sound. There should be more television space dedicated to Sunday's championship given the early start won't conflict much with the ponies.
Ocean Resort – The TV setup is better, but still tied into DirecTV, which means no NBC Sports Philadelphia channel. The Phillies play at Miami at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSP, so at this point, it will not be on any of the TVs at the Ocean.
Borgata – Big edge here since the Borgata will offer a complimentary drink ticket for a sports or horse racing bet. Just don't be a pig.
Ocean Resort – It does not offer complimentary drinks unless patrons are playing video poker at the bar with an Ocean Resort player's card.
Borgata – Domestic bottled beers are $5 at the sportsbook bar, importeds are $6. Mimosas are $6.25, Bloody Marys are $8.25. You're on your own for anything more potent.
Ocean Resort – Domestic bottles are $6, importeds are $7, Bloody Mary's $9. and mimosas $10.
Quick food choices
Borgata – The escalator for the food court is right next to the sportsbook. You're in a casino, so be prepared to pay $14 for a cheesesteak and $12 for a mushroom burger.
Ocean Resort – There are some restaurants nearby, but about the only thing quick would be a food truck serving Mexican.
Borgata – There's a really nice pool not far from the sportsbook that cost $50 for non-hotel guests. There are no TVs at the outside pool, but the bar at the Beer Garden is a few steps away. The Borgata is located at the Marina, so there is no beach access.
Ocean Resort – Two entrances to the beach are just outside the hotel, one via Connecticut Avenue, the other via Massachusetts Avenue. Stream the World Cup TV feed through www.FoxSportsGo.com and hang on the beach for the day. Can't do that in Vegas.
Borgata – They are part of MGM Resorts MLife rewards program, which includes several properties in Vegas and elsewhere. Sometimes the windows take the player's card, sometimes they do not.
Ocean Resort – Because the sportsbook is operated by the William Hill-US company, only the Hill's player's card is recognized at the sportsbook. The Ocean Resort's rewards program, Ocean Premier, is not.
As of Wednesday afternoon
Borgata – The Borgata is never cheap, especially in the summer and especially for customers not enrolled in its rewards program. The lowest room rate for Sunday night was, with taxes, $373.
Ocean Resort – This is much more manageable at $235, including taxes, but all they had left were rooms with king-size beds. They say all the rooms are ocean front, which is another nice touch.