New $11 Million Borgata ‘Sports Wagering Venue’ To Open This Summer

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Some Atlantic City casinos raced to the starting line to offer sports betting in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last May that paved the way for states to do so. Others took a more deliberative approach.

Borgata — the market leader in all things Atlantic City gambling since it opened in 2003 — has elected to do both.

Almost seven months after being the first casino to offer sports betting in that southern New Jersey city, Borgata on Wednesday announced that it will be another six or seven months before the permanent sports betting site is completed.

Notice we didn’t say “sportsbook,” because Borgata didn’t. The casino is calling it “a new venue that will integrate an entertaining bar experience with sports wagering.”

Perhaps even more noteworthy is the price tag for that new venue: $11 million.

How might Borgata’s book compare to rivals?

The DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts, which opened in November, was said to be built at a cost of “several million” and has gotten good reviews.

The Ocean Resort Casino sportsbook that opened in September — 7,500 square feet at a cost of $6 million — is considered state-of-the-art.

Of course money is not the only indicator of quality, but the cost as well as the length of time for the buildout — it will be about a year from temporary book to permanent one — suggests Borgata is focused on the long term.

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“Since Borgata arrived in the Atlantic City market more than 15 years ago, we have maintained a steadfast dedication to property growth and development, with our new concept exemplifying this objective,” said Borgata President and CEO Marcus Glover in a statement. “We are proud to have been at the forefront of legalized sports betting in New Jersey and look forward to advancing our product with an innovative gaming and entertainment experience for our guests to enjoy.”

The current situation for Borgata sports bettors is interesting. While a half-dozen or so Atlantic City venues used to have racebooks — that is, simulcasting parlors — now Borgata stands alone in that respect.

So the Borgata Racebook is now Borgata Race & Sportsbook. It’s a larger space than some other temporary sports betting sites in the city, but mainly, it’s a racebook.

Borgata officials aren’t yet ready to comment further, but it may well be that once they realized that they couldn’t complete a major new addition in time for football season, and then even in time for March Madness college basketball in the spring, it made it easier to focus solely on the long term. It’s a long way until the start of the 2019 college and pro football season this fall, after all.

MGM, Borgata’s owner, has shown an eagerness to embrace sports betting across the board. Borgata has rolled out the playMGM mobile sports betting app within the New Jersey borders, and MGM has struck well-publicized deals with the NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLB, and the NFL’s New York Jets — meaning it has some sort of tie-in with all four sports leagues that sued New Jersey over sports betting in 2012.

Borgata left a temporary vacuum for a rival

Borgata’s “slow play” on opening a permanent sportsbook paved the way for Ocean’s book to become the early leader in market share.

Ocean derived nearly $2M in revenue from its live sportsbook in November alone, beating all other AC casinos and more than doubling Borgata’s number. (See my colleague and Gamble On podcast partner Eric Raskin’s interview with Ocean CEO Frank Leone.)

That’s a big deal for a casino that has both a haunted past as Revel — for more than $2 billion in costs, it opened in 2012 and closed in 2014 — and a trailing place so far in monthly traditional casino revenue. Five of the other eight casinos either doubled or nearly doubled Ocean’s $11.7 mm in casino win in November, for instance.

And while Ocean’s casino and sportsbook both look the part, it can’t shake rumors of, well, shakiness — such as a possible sale of the property by owner Bruce Deifik as well as a lawsuit by a former manager of a nightclub on the property.

The troubles have led to speculation that the Boardwalk property might not survive. It’s stunning that an operator spending millions on a world-class sportsbook would be in jeopardy of shutting down just months later. Then again, this is Atlantic City, where anything can happen.

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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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