What To Expect At Atlantic City Sportsbooks With NFL Kickoff Amid COVID-19

Posted By Bill Gelman on September 9, 2020 - Last Updated on October 25, 2020

Atlantic City sportsbooks are open for NFL betting. The typical Week One buzz, however, is toned down. And that’s mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing guidelines, including 25% capacity limits, eliminate the possibility of standing-room-only crowds.

During a recent visit to AC, Play NJ noticed that the Book at Bally’s significantly reduced its seating capacity. So don’t be surprised if you notice missing chairs or seats roped off at other properties.

Now that the prime NJ sports betting season is officially here, AC sportsbooks are being cautious in their planning but optimistic.

Like the casino floors, customers and employees must follow the state-mandated health and safety protocols.

However, fans looking to watch and wager on Sunday’s Philadelphia Eagles game against the Washington Football Team have options.

Even if it’s different at Atlantic City sportsbooks, there are still wagers to be had. Here’s a closer look.

Atlantic City sportsbooks: the rules and the unknowns

For those wanting to visit an Atlantic City sportsbook, there are some general rules you can expect at all locations. They include the following:

  • Masks are required in all public spaces. This includes sportsbooks. The only exception is when eating or drinking.
  • Social distancing is a must. Sportsbooks will provide signs and floor markers to help keep kiosks and betting windows free of crowds.
  • Seating will be limited. Just as some slot machines are turned off to help maintain six feet of separation, seats will also be roped off or removed.
  • Betting windows may be limited. Kiosks, however, are an option for betting, and most are accessible 24/7.

But casinos are still finalizing their betting plans for football. General rules aside, each sportsbook will have its own systems in place. Some will offer food, while others won’t. Reservations will be required at some sportsbooks but unavailable at others.

For example, things are still in flux at Golden Nugget Atlantic City. But it will be open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday, and bets can be made via kiosks 24/7.

The William Hill-branded space at Ocean Casino Resort is the second largest in town at 7,500 square feet. It’s staying open until midnight on Sunday, so bettors will not miss a play or winning payout.

As far as food and drink offerings go, the Ocean team is still ironing out the details, but cocktails will be served.

We will update this story with new information as it is released, but here’s a closer look at some AC casinos sportsbook plans.

Caesars makes changes before NFL kickoff

On Wednesday, the sportsbooks at Harrah’s and Bally’s were temporarily closed. But behind the scenes, things were apparently in the works.

William Hill became the official operator of both retail sportsbooks on Thursday afternoon, just a few hours before NFL kickoff.

The change was first noticed on the casino websites, which also noted new hours of operation as well as health and safety rules.

The new operating hours are as follows:

  • Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-12 a.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 a.m.
  • Sunday: 9 a.m.-12 a.m.

Additionally, like other sportsbooks in AC, the William Hill Sportsbooks at Harrah’s and Wild Wild West casinos will require mandatory masks unless eating or drinking. Guests must also follow all social distancing guidelines.

And speaking of food and drink, standing at the bar is not permitted at either book. Only seated patrons will be served. But food and drink must be consumed at a restaurant or bar, or in hotel rooms.

Seating, of course, has changed as well. While bettors can reserve seats online for the upcoming NFL betting season, there will be fewer seats. Customers should contact both properties directly for seating information and reservations.

DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts is quieter

Some consider the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts the best place to watch and wager in AC. But it might be a bit quieter for football this year.

The oldest casino in town continues to implement its Play Safe, Work Safe plan. This includes guests going through a temperature checkpoint as they enter the property.

And with the sportsbook being a public space, customers and employees must follow the guidelines. This eliminates the possibility of having 400 guests inside the space at one time. For now, according to Resorts, crowds will be limited to about 100 people. There will be about 40 seats available.

Normally, seats can be reserved for special events and pay-per-views, but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.

As far as wagering goes, the 18 betting kiosks are available 24/7. Betting also can be done via any of the 18 NJ sportsbook apps.

Besides DraftKings, Fox Bet NJ and Resorts Sportsbook operate under the Resorts Digital license.

Food and drink pair well with the NJ sports wagering experience. The DraftKings-branded sports bar is reopening Saturday but with limited hours, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The food menu, however, is not available at this time.

Resorts customers can still take advantage of the indoor and outdoor dining options available throughout the property.

Hard Rock Sportsbook ready for NFL kickoff

The Hard Rock Atlantic City sportsbook is ready for the Thursday Night Football kickoff between the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

And by ready, we mean adjusted hours to accommodate the football season. Here are the operating hours effective as of Sept. 13:

  • Sunday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
  • Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Friday: 11 a.m.-midnight
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.-midnight

Wagers can be made at the betting windows or via any of the betting apps. For example, there are three apps using Hard Rock’s license:

If the sportsbook counter is closed, winning tickets can be cashed in at the casino cage.

And with Hard Rock’s Safe + Sound protocols in place, things are just a tad different around the sportsbook. For one, there is extremely limited seating. Under normal conditions, the 3,800-square-foot space only has 50 seats.

The chairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

And customers who come hungry should bring food from other Hard Rock dining outlets, as it’s not available at the sportsbook. The bar is scheduled to open Thursday night.

Grab a bite at BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar

When Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week’s indoor dining restart, it was great news for Borgata. It means food and drinks are being served once again at the rebranded BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar.

While the betting windows reopened the same day as the land-based casino did back in late July, the sports bar kitchen remained closed. It is now serving food and drinks from noon-10 p.m. daily. Seating, which is limited to 25% capacity, can be reserved by calling 609-317-7414. And reservations are highly recommended.

For added convenience, guests can view digital menus on mobile devices via QR code.

And like other MGM-owned properties across the country, there is a seven-point health and safety plan employees and guests must follow.

Following the social distancing guidelines (via the floor markers) while waiting in line to place a wager is one of them.

Of course, those same bets can be placed using the BetMGM sportsbook or Borgata Sports apps.

So the only thing left to do is start the countdown to Thursday Night Football and the NFL kickoff.

Photo by Wayne Parry/AP File Photo
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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and now NJ sports betting and online gambling.

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