Editor’s Note: Play NJ lead writer David Danzis spent Super Bowl Sunday touring several Atlantic City sportsbooks. Here are some of the highlights from his day.
A few minutes before kickoff, Rick Meyer is the model depiction of a casino sportsbook manager on Super Bowl Sunday: a touch of anxiety and a dash of giddiness mixed with a businesslike demeanor and the aura of control, all paired nicely with a stone-gray suit, neutral dress shirt and black mask.
A few beads of sweat gather on his forehead as he jumps between supervising the betting counter to checking on guests seated around high-top tables.
While “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays on every high-definition TV inside The Book at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Meyer has a moment to pause and reflect on a Super Bowl like no other.
Like all the other eight sportsbooks in town and their host casinos, The Book is subject to capacity restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Meyer says reserved tables for Sunday night were limited to make sure the room’s 60-person limit was not exceeded.
Nonetheless, as the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to defend their NFL championship against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55, Meyer is enthusiastic.
“We’re thrilled with the crowd,” he says. “Everybody is well-behaved, socially distancing, doing their part. And everyone’s having a good time.”
Stop No.1 on @playnjcom #AtlanticCity book tour for #SuperBowl Sunday. Rick Meyer, sportsbook mgr, says action has been steady all day, lots of player prop bets. Book is at capacity. pic.twitter.com/CYNUxtkrsW
— David Danzis (@AC_Danzis) February 7, 2021
A lot of action came in on proposition bets before the game, Meyer tells Play NJ. Player prop bets, especially, were a hit. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, along with Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski, scoring a touchdown were attractive plays, he said. (Spoiler: Gronk caught two TDs from Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in the Bucs’ 31-9 thrashing of Kansas City.)
“The sentiment seems to be with Brady,” Meyer says about who bettors were backing before the game.
Wild Sunday at Atlantic City sportsbooks
A similar attitude toward the Hall of Fame QB and his Bucs is on display at the William Hill Sportsbook inside Caesars Atlantic City. The sportsbook and adjacent Boardwalk Saloon erupt when Brady connects with Gronkowsi for an 8-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
“He’s the GOAT!” a man called Twick (clearly not his real name) wearing a Bucs hat yells out about the 43-year old Brady. “You can’t stop that man!”
“Cash that ticket! Get that money! Gronk TD, baby!” his friend, Roger Rabbit (pretty sure that wasn’t this gentleman’s real name either, but who am I to say?), hollers back while jumping (hopping?) up and down.
Stop No.2 on @playnjcom #AtlanticCity book tour for #SuperBowl Sunday. The @WilliamHillUS book inside @wildwildwestac / @CaesarsAC. Good crowd, fans leaning heavy toward TB12 and Bucs. There's a couple of KC jerseys here, though. https://t.co/CYNUxtkrsW pic.twitter.com/od9W7pMysM
— David Danzis (@AC_Danzis) February 8, 2021
About 20 minutes later, when it looks like Bucs RB Ronald Jones has scored on fourth down from the 1-yard line, another roar goes up. It is quickly followed by groans when the officials rule Jones short of the goal line.
Hittin’ props at the Trop
Maybe all the Kansas City fans in Atlantic City are huddled together at the William Hill Sportsbook inside Tropicana, because when Chiefs DB Tyrann Mathieu intercepts a deflected Brady pass in the second quarter, the packed-house, standing-room crowd cheers.
But a defensive holding call negates the pick, and Tampa keeps the ball. A neutral zone infraction on the Chiefs takes a Tampa field goal off the board but keeps the Bucs’ drive alive.
Another Brady-to-Gronk TD about five minutes later and, except for a scattering of Bucs backers, the book gets noticeably quieter.
With 6:03 left in the first half, the Bucs are up 14-3.
“Brady and the refs are winning this game,” says Barry Little, a New York Giants fan from Keyport.
Clearly frustrated, Little took the Chiefs straight up and the over on the total points (56.5). He’s banking on a high-scoring shoutout orchestrated by Brady and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. “They gotta let these boys play.”
The Chiefs are penalized eight times for 98 yards in the first half. It is the most penalties in a half for one team in Super Bowl history.
Another stalled Chiefs drive leads to a field goal, and the score is 14-6.
“We got this,” Little says now, a little grin appearing under his graying mustache.
Eleven minutes later, when Brady tosses his third touchdown of the half to WR Antonio Brown, Little looks dazed.
He bet Brown would find the endzone, so he made out with the TD. But his main wager, the Chiefs moneyline, is in serious jeopardy.
“The over looks good because Mahomes is going to have a monster second half,” Little says out on the Boardwalk during a halftime cigarette break. “Look what they did last year.”
Tough night for KC, the over … and Gary
Little is not the only gambler who has misplaced their faith in the NFL’s most exciting offense. Gary, a Cleveland Browns fan watching the game at the DraftKings Sportsbook inside Resorts Casino Hotel, did too.
Before the third quarter starts, Gary (who does not want to give his last name or where he was from because “my wife doesn’t even know I’m in AC”) said he has so much faith in Kansas City, he just placed three more bets on his phone.
That was at 8:42 p.m. At 8:50, when the Chiefs cap off their opening second-half drive with a field goal, Gary pipes up.
“OK. Here we go. Comeback starts now,” he says.
Less than 10 minutes later, Gary is not a happy camper. Bucs RB Leonard Fournette broke free for a 27-yard touchdown run, putting Tampa up 28-9.
“Are you kidding me?!,” he asks of no one in particular. “You gotta tackle people, bro.”
The situation does not improve much for Gary or Little, who presumably is just as deflated back at the Tropicana. The Chiefs can’t find an offensive rhythm, and the Bucs’ defensive is stifling.
Another Tampa Bay field goal in the third quarter makes the score 31-9, the game’s eventual final tally.
The crowds inside Atlantic City sportsbooks have had enough for the night.
“Well, that … sucked,” says a young woman named Lucy on her way to the exit. She turns to the two people she’s with and sums up the night perfectly: “Let’s go get a drink.”