ATLANTIC CITY — There’s a good reason the newly built sportsbook at the Borgata Casino won’t feel like a traditional sportsbook when it opens this weekend.
“It’s not a sportsbook. It’s a bar and a restaurant,” explained Marcus Glover, Borgata president and chief operating officer. “We built something that we can activate 24/7, 365 days. This space can be a sports bar and a ‘book during the day. It can turn into a nightlife venue at night.”
The last two major sportsbooks in Atlantic City casinos have arrived with different concepts.
The Borgata’s, which will open to the public on Saturday morning, is a cross between a sports bar and a nightclub, except with six betting windows, a litany of TVs, and some kiosks. They’ll be able to erect a stage for live music. Head over to the adjacent lounge when things get too loud -- the current sportsbook is still open.
On the Boardwalk, Bally’s, which recently unveiled the largest sportsbook in the area, is gunning for a different vibe. It wants the younger crowd as well as the traditional sports bettor. Bally’s spent $11 million expanding the space next to the Wild Wild West Casino and carving out a cozy area at its sister property at Harrah’s in the marina district.
“We’ve done a lot of research on what is appealing to millennials, and it’s the social aspect,” said Kevin Ortzman, regional president for Caesars Entertainment. “It’s the control: They don’t like things being told to them; they want to have their own control. They’ll still spend, but they’re not going to spend what we’re accustomed to with a traditional gamer, who might spend 100 dollars on a slot machine or blackjack. They’ll still spend a hundred, but it’s going to be on value-oriented drinks, quick-service food. They’ll spend a little bit on blackjack, but in a social [setting] with all of their buddies.”
The driving force behind what traditional sportsbooks are versus what they will need to become is online betting. More than 80 percent of sports bets in New Jersey are made online. And, as in-game betting grows, so will mobile betting. That’s why A.C. needs to be creative.
“I’m in Vegas once a month, and I go to every book out there," Glover said. “If there’s not premium content on the TV, those places are empty. We didn’t want to spend the money we were spending on a space that would be empty 300 days out of the year.”
Bally’s quietly opened its new sportsbook on June 14. With nothing much going on besides baseball and women’s World Cup soccer, it’s been pretty empty in there. Friday night beer pong can hold attention spans for only so long.
“The bigger trick for us is how do we activate this right now,” Ortzman said. “There are no games going on. That’s our challenge. It’s really going to be how much I can integrate and activate the non-sportsbook space.”
No one is sure what the recent sale of Caesars, the parent company of Bally’s and Harrah’s, to upstart Eldorado Resorts will mean for the sports-betting scene, but it might bring some upheaval. William Hill, a partner with Eldorado, operates the most sportsbooks in the United States. It planted a public-relations flag on Tuesday, saying it wanted to run the newly acquired Caesars sportsbooks.
It could take a year for the $17.3 billion sale to be untangled and finalized, so that isn’t happening anytime soon. The sale was announced Monday, and Ortzman declined to comment.
The Borgata will keep its horse-racing parlor, the only one left in Atlantic City’s casinos, but that also is subject to change.
“The beauty is, we have the space to satisfy both customers for now,” Glover said. “But long-term, that’s a legitimate question we need to answer. … When it gets to a point where it is an eroding-value proposition where it doesn’t make sense, we’ll obviously pull the trigger on it. We’re not at that point quite yet."
The Borgata’s Moneyline Bar & Book will open at 10 a.m., Saturday, and will have former athletes such as Mike Schmidt, Brent Celek, Keith Byars, and Lawrence Taylor signing autographs nearby for a fee. (Schmitty’s and L.T.'s cost $60; everyone else’s is $40).
Moneyline is near the horse parlor and poker room and should give that part of Borgata’s house a spark.
“We could be making a $12 million bet and be wrong on this — I don’t think we will be — but we didn’t think customers wanted more of what you see at other places when it came to this kind of concept,” said Glover, noting the cost of renovations. “We’ve always been pioneers. If we’re going to continue to be pioneers, we had to think of this space differently."
Ortzman walked around Bally’s massive sportsbook, which includes five cabanas -- called “fan-caves” -- and had similar thoughts.
“The vision is much broader than the sportsbook itself. It’s really a full integration of everything we’re trying to do in the Wild Wild West,” he said. “That [concept] was born three years ago with the intent of serving what I believe is an underserved market: the millennials. … It’s so cool to see this come to fruition.”
♦ Opening: Saturday, June 29 at 10 a.m.
♦ 8,000 square feet
♦ Six betting windows
♦ Main video screen: 12 feet high x 40 feet wide
♦ 35-foot long bar with slot machines
♦ VIP area
♦ Booth, high-top and table-top seating
♦ Saturday autograph schedule: Mike Schmidt (12:30 p.m.), Jennie Finch (2 p.m.), Keith Byars (3 p.m.), Dwight Gooden (4 p.m.), Brent Celek (5:30 p.m.), Lawrence Taylor (7 p.m.).
♦ Observation: Not a traditional sports book, doesn’t pretend to be.
♦ Opened: June 14
♦ 15,228 square feet
♦ 10 betting windows
♦ Main video screen: 18 feet high x 98 feet wide
♦ Modest bar, but cocktail service
♦ 102 theater-style seats, 30 more in VIP, 28 along a bar rail
♦ Cabanas, self-serve premium draft beer wall
♦ Kiosks by football season
♦ Observation: A destination sportsbook.
SugarHouse officials say construction on the permanent sportsbook at its Philadelphia casino will be completed by the fall.
It is moving out of its cramped location and across the casino floor where the “Lucky Red” gaming area was. The 5,300-square-foot site will have six betting windows and 22 betting kiosks, in addition to its mobile app.