Borgata To Continue With Unique Racebook In 2020

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There has been legal, regulated gambling going on in Atlantic City on sporting events for decades – in spite of the hype surrounding the introduction of sports betting last year.

But until that U.S. Supreme Court decision in May 2018, such wagering was limited to horse racing at various racebooks at casinos in the city.

But one by one, the racebooks closed – except for the one at Borgata, in the Marina District.

Can that racebook survive in the face of betting on major team sports at eight Atlantic City casinos? After all, Borgata’s Moneyline sportsbook that opened earlier this summer was built at a cost of $11 mm.

It looks as it it can survive. Borgata recently applied to the state Racing Commission for renewal of its annual licenses to offer simulcasting.

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Tom Gable, the director of the casino’s racebook and Moneyline sportsbook, told njonlinegambling.com that Borgata’s simulcasting monopoly is about five years old.

“I have not heard any rumblings that another property is going to open one, so it looks like we will be the only one for a little while longer,” Gable said.

Who are the racebook customers?

Talk of simulcasting bettors inevitably produce a mental picture of elderly, retired men who spend the day with their nose in programs, handicapping one race after another. But Gable said that’s not quite the full picture.

“There is no question that the horse racing demographic skews older, however there are certainly a number of customers in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who come in regularly to wager,” Gable said. “With the introduction of sports betting, we have seen some individuals who have come in to place a sports wager and then also stay to place some horse racing wagers. Sports betting certainly brings in a younger demographic.”

Of course, some who come to place a horse racing bet might find sports betting more appealing. Is that a danger there for the racebook?

“We have definitely seen some crossover play with our existing racing customers now betting sports,” Gable said. “A rough estimate would be around 60% to 70% of the racing customers also place sports wagers.  It varies by individual, obviously.

“For instance, one customer may split their existing wallet now between race and sports (which decreases the amount of racing business that they once did before sports betting).  However, we have seen some customers increase their spend overall due to sports now also getting a share of their wallet – and their racing business has held steady.

“The last few months have been relatively flat for racing, which is actually a good sign for us,” Gable said. “We want to hold onto that existing business, and look to see a gradual increase in the future.”

Secondary benefits to having a racebook

Being the only racebook in town brings a potential advantage in terms of attracting patrons who decided to stay at one of Borgata’s hotel rooms.

“The customers that come for racing certainly have a residual value to them,” Gable said. “Not only are they wagering in the racebook, but they are also spending money on food and beverage and other non-gaming items.

“Then you also have to look at who they are bringing with them. We have a lot of customers who bring their spouses and while their spouse may not be into wagering on the horses, they are playing slots, tables, etc. – so you have to look at that flow-through revenue that exists from these customers.

“[Simulcast betting] is an amenity that Borgata can offer that no one else in the market can at the moment,” Gable said. “We have customers who come to Borgata regularly from other states who drive past three or four other tracks/racinos or casinos on the way and come here, because of what Borgata can offer as a full-scale Las Vegas-style resort.”

The racebook has 100 seats with individual monitors, and 40 “Tiny Tim” betting machines so a gambler doesn’t have to leave his seat to make a wager. There also are eight self-service betting machines.

Gable said that Borgata in 2020 will integrate the racing and sports betting systems.

“This will allow us to take a horse wager or a sports wager at any window throughout both the Race & Sports Book and Moneyline Bar & Book,” Gable said. “This will be important during high volume events such as the Super Bowl, March Madness, and Triple Crown days where the lines flow outside the door to the book.”

Borgata’s handicapping contests will continue, Gable said, including a $10k contest coming up on Feb. 8. That one will feature a $75 entry fee as well as a $100 tournament bankroll that is the player’s to keep.

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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