During the summer, I posted reviews of each of the 10 New Jersey retail sportsbooks.
The winner across multiple categories was The Book at Bally’s in Atlantic City.
The Book, which opened on July 30, is the newest addition to the NJ sportsbook landscape and is the largest retail sportsbook in AC.
The Book clearly stood out during my visit in August, but what would it be like on a hectic NFL Sunday in October? To find out, I spent this past Sunday afternoon in the VIP section at The Book.
VIP access at The Book at Bally’s
Before I recount the afternoon’s events, I have a quick word about The Book VIP ticket access.
While there are plenty of unreserved seats available, The Book at Bally’s also has multiple locations for reservations. The ability to reserve a seat or section is unique in relation to other NJ sportsbooks, which, for the most part, offer their seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
From private “fan caves,” which can hold about 24, to sofas and seats for VIPs, there’s a pricing option for each, which players can easily book via phone or online.
There is a basic handling charge for the reservation, which converts into a food and beverage credit for that day. The seat holder pays the difference for any costs above the credit.
I chose a VIP seat for $50.
Sunday was also unique as the local teams, the Jets, Giants and Philadelphia Eagles were all playing road games, and all starting at 1 p.m.
Maybe it was a good thing that the teams were all out of town as it was horrible weather. Getting to Atlantic City was a mini-adventure with torrential rain buffeting the lanes of the NJ Parkway South for almost the entire journey.
I was thankful, on the one hand, for the quick access to the Bally’s covered parking garage and the ease of finding a parking space on the weekend.
On the other hand, the $25 parking fee is cringeworthy, but I put that out of my mind since I wouldn’t have to pay it until my exit, which was a good five to six hours later.
I’ve just gotten out of my car.
Here’s my timeline recap of my day at Bally’s:
The walk from the parking garage to the casino and The Book is short and easy, progressing through a series of people-mover walkways, with the occasional challenge of stepping out of the way of the onslaught of recently checked-out hotel guests charging toward me with their overnight wheelie bags.
Everything seemed to settle down a notch once I was on the final escalator down to the Wild Wild West section of the casino, the location of The Book.
This is my second time at The Book. So, it’s still a new experience, and it absolutely garners a “wow” response from me. This place is huge, and the size of the TV screens and the facility itself makes quite an impression.
Since I have a reserved seat, I spend some time looking around, trying to determine where to go to check-in. A security guard directs me to ask at the main teller window to sort out my reservation.
Most of the tellers are busy, but one is free, who quickly advises that since they don’t handle reservations at the betting windows, I’ll need to go to the main bar at the opposite end of the sportsbook to sort it out.
Over at the bar, a bartender, deftly preparing four bloody mary’s, looks up long enough to let me know that they don’t handle reservations there. I will need to go to a podium that’s straight ahead, about 50 yards away.
As I’ve now completed a lap of the cavernous Book, I’m somewhat relieved to have finally found the right place.
My reservation is confirmed at the check-in podium, and I’m led to my seat, which is located on the aisle, just as I requested when making my online reservation. Perfect.
The food-and-beverage threshold is explained to me, advising that I can spend up to $50 and will need to pay for additional charges above that. Got it.
As I was seated and my wristband was applied, the attendant said there would be a server by shortly to take my drink or food orders.
I nestle into my oversized leather theater seat and survey the Book scene.
Nearly every seat in the space is occupied. The five private fan caves are full, as are the six VIP sofa sections behind me. All I need now is a menu and a server, and I will be ready to roll.
Server issues at The Book at Bally’s
I note there are four or five servers at The Book, and they are busy in and out of the fan caves and other VIP seats; however, none have made it to my aisle seat location yet.
Thirty minutes to kickoff and the NFL Network studio show is airing on The Book’s large center TV screen as they cut to a pregame report from Orchard Park, NY, for the Bills-Eagles game.
With rain and wind gusts of 40 mph, it looks like the game is an obvious candidate for an under the total points play.
Perhaps my server is up at the window now playing the under in the Eagles game as I still await food and beverage service.
I put my thirst and hunger pangs off to the side for a moment to have a look at the odds board and grab a rotation sheet for the NFL games. There’s also a long list of props available, but only for the Sunday night Packers-Chiefs game (click on the image to expand):
The eight Sunday afternoon games’ betting options at Bally’s are limited, and I use “limited” here as a compliment.
Outside of the first half, second half and full-game total, point spread and moneyline bets, there are no other props available.
It’s a bit of a letdown. It’s like walking into a new ice cream store, and the flavor options are vanilla, chocolate and they’re out of strawberry.
A glance of the Caesars app confirms no other props or specials are on offer for the 1 p.m. football games.
Still no sign of a server for me. Maybe he or she skipped down the boardwalk to Resorts to bet the Bills’ Josh Allen to throw under 1.5 touchdown prop at DraftKings Sportsbook?
With 15 minutes to kickoff, its time to get in line and place my bets. The line is about 30 people deep, feeding into a bank of six live tellers.
On either side of the teller windows, there are a total of 12 self-serve kiosks that are unplugged with a “coming soon” paper over them. There is no indication when they will be plugged in and operational.
The line moves steadily and smoothly, and I am in front of a teller in about five minutes.
As part of my sportsbook reviews during the summer, I placed a different college or pro football bet at each of the 10 books I visited.
I struck it lucky with my Bally’s bet hitting this modest four-team moneyline parlay for Week 1:
My $5 wager in August was good in the first week in September, and I collected $20 in winnings in October. Not bad.
I parlayed my winnings into another parlay today, keeping it simple with a three-team moneyline parlay of the Eagles, Lions, and Buccaneers to win:
It was easy NFL betting, and I received a drink ticket to boot:
I’m back at my seat, and I check with my friend to see if there was any sign of a server. Still, nothing after 45 minutes of being seated.
There are servers around; it’s just that none of them are even in shouting distance of my vicinity. I quickly realize that it might be difficult to spend $50 on food and drinks if I don’t have a server.
I feel the opening week jitters versus the reality of it being Week 8 as there’s a lot of scurrying around. It’s obvious some issues still need to be ironed out.
Just about time for kickoff and Bally’s ginormous screens are reprogrammed to capture all the NFL action.
The Eagles-Bills game receives top billing with game feed and sound on the center screen, with the other smaller screens programmed to carry the other games and the red zone channel.
The 280 seats are full as the games get underway.
Timing is everything. Just as the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox is sacking Bills’ QB Josh Allen on their first drive, our server appears. Oops! Once she returns with a menu, I should be in great shape.
The Jaguars scored the first touchdown of the afternoon versus the Jets. Las Vegas books offer a prop bet for which team will score the first TD of the early games; wouldn’t that be a cool prop to offer here? Or, even in each game, the race to score 7, 14, or 21 points?
We have food menus now and have put in our drink order. Progress.
When eight games are going simultaneously, there is light clapping and crowd reaction after almost every play. The Eagles, on the center screen, garner most of the audible reactions, but it’s not “Philly-Raucous,” and certainly, there’s no one leading Fly Eagles Fly song chants.
Drinks have arrived, the food order is in and the Eagles strike first on the scoreboard with a field goal late in the first quarter. Life is good and can only get better.
Perennial Eagles nemesis Cole Beasley has traded his Dallas star logo for a thundering Buffalo on his helmet. No matter, because he continues to torment the Birds by catching a touchdown pass for the Bills’ first TD.
Well, I didn’t necessarily need an order of nachos; however, I’m playing catchup to get to the $50 threshold and, simply put, it’s by far the best bucket of nachos I’ve ever had:
The sandwiches have arrived, and Joey Chestnut could not have eaten the blue-sabi chicken sandwich any faster than me. I quickly feel the strength coming back to my body.
It’s a flurry of football action and midway through the second quarter as the Eagles lead while both the Giants and Jets trail. Aside from the Eagles, the Giants game draws the most fan reaction. Again, its low key with muted golf claps and cheers.
As we near halftime, there aren’t any posted lines for second-half action. There are odds posted for some of the games on the Caesars app. The odds screens in The Book are only scrolling prices for the remaining afternoon and night games.
Its halftime in Orchard Park and time for a quick check-in on the status of my moneyline parlay. It’s looking OK with Eagles and Lions leading and the Bucs only trailing 17-15 to the Titans, but there is still a lot of football to be played.
Patrons are in line at the teller windows during halftime. Maybe they are cashing the first-half bet, playing the second half of the late games. Not sure, but it’s a small gathering of people.
With the second half underway, Eagles’ Miles Sanders breaks an electrifying 65-yard TD run to draw the loudest book reaction of the afternoon.
Our wait staff issue is stabilized, and I’m getting a server check-in about every five to 10 minutes. All is good.
The Bills are keeping things close in Orchard Park, countering Eagles’ Sanders with a dynamic rookie running back of their own, Devin Singletary, who scores to cut the Eagles lead to 17-13.
If you had a Boston Scott prop bet to score an Eagles TD, congrats as he just barreled in for a score. The Eagles have taken control of this game, 24-13, with the game is also sitting right at the total points of 38.5.
At the end of the third quarter, the Eagles and Lions lead by comfortable margins. The Bucs have clawed their way to a 23-20 lead against the Titans. Fingers crossed that I can cash my parlay.
A quick lap around the Bally’s sportsbook
With an early break in the fourth quarter, I decided to cash in my free drink coupon. There is a large bar under the TV screens, with four bartenders working furiously, so I didn’t wait to get my drink.
Another unique feature of The Book is a “Beer Yourself” area with 10 self-service taps adjacent to this bar. There is an excellent selection of draft beers that you can pour yourself after swiping a credit card.
Now, I wasn’t completely focused on this attraction the entire afternoon. But, for whatever reason, I only saw two or three people use the beer station the entire day.
I completed my quick lap around the venue. There’s something at The Book for everyone.
There were people gathered around the Guitar Hero video game. Some were playing air hockey, and there’s a full complement of casino table games and slot machines as you walk away from The Book toward the Boardwalk entrance.
Also, the back row of The Book’s seating area offers video poker terminals, which allow you to try to hit a royal flush while keeping one eye on all the football action.
As we get deeper into the fourth quarter, I’m trying to decide when I will need to get in line to possibly make a bet for the late games.
Will there be a crush of people following the 1 p.m. games for bettors to cash tickets and make bets for the 4 p.m. games?
My thoughts on betting the late games are put on hold for a little bit.
While the Eagles and Lions seem to be coasting to wins, the Titans just took the lead, and now my parlay rests on QB Jameis Winston leading the Buccaneers to a touchdown.
It’s late in the fourth quarter, and of the p.m. games, only the Eagles and Saints games are decided from a point spread perspective. There’s some emotion from Jets’ and Giants’ fans as their teams can potentially cover their roughly 7-point spreads in each game.
Watching Winston trying to drive for a must-have TD is best accompanied by ordering another beer, in my opinion.
The local games are settled. The Eagles win outright as +1.5 underdog, the Giants lose but cover as 6-point underdogs and the Jets lose by 14 and fail to cover getting +7 points from the Jaguars.
The Bucs rally falls short, and my three-team parlay ticket is now ready for the recycle bin. There’s always that one game that blows up your parlay; such is the lament of the sports bettor.
There’s a small but manageable line currently at the teller window, certainly nothing like the 1 p.m. pre-kickoff line.
Did people lose all their bets? Did they just bet the games on their phones? I’m not sure where everyone has gone. After my parlay loss in the 1 p.m. games and only three games in the late window, I’m going to sit back and watch.
No more action for me at the Bally’s betting windows.
The pregame footage from New England is downright scary as they have the same weather we had in Jersey earlier in the day. Yuck.
In addition to the Patriots, the two other games are Panthers-49ers and Raiders-Texans.
The Book adjusts to configure the Patriots’ game on the main screen with the Niners and Texans games on smaller screens, with NBA, tennis and soccer also now in the mix of the live sports action.
Covering the spread and that $50 food and beverage fee
Its been a long day, and the idea of watching the Patriots-Browns on the big screen isn’t appealing to me.
But our server advises that I’m only at 70% of our food and beverage spending and its “use it or lose it.” So, I decide to stay for a while longer and soften the impact of watching the Patriots with an order of tater tots and some nonalcoholic beverages.
With the late games underway and no local teams in action, the crowd thins out noticeably. There are plenty of open seats available in The Book.
We aren’t even halfway through the first quarter, and the Patriots lead the Browns 17-0. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.
The tater tots are so good, and there’s still a food and beverage credit available, so we place another order.
Speaking of tater tots, the Browns are treating the football like a hot potato fumbling on three straight plays in a game that is now officially a debacle.
The NFL’s other unbeaten team, the San Francisco 49ers are running up and down the field, scoring at will against the Panthers, which leaves the Raiders-Texans game as the only real contentious game in the late window.
I settle the food and beverage tab. I got close, but the combination of a free drink ticket and sluggish service at the start of the day left me unable to “cover the spread.” I will need to do better next time.
At halftime of the Texans’ and 49ers games, and with the Patriots game about there, its time to bid adieu to the Book.
With the initial check-in process and service issues noted, The Book is still an awesome sports viewing and gambling experience. It’s worth your while to check out.
The options are to book a VIP seat, sofa, fan cave or arrive early and try to snag an unreserved seat in the main viewing area or at the video poker terminals. There’s also plenty of room at The Book to stand in the back or sides.
The screens are so big, crisp and clear; you’ll be able to see all the action from any vantage point.
My parking spot in the garage connects from the hotel/casino via a tunnel walkway. It’s convenient.
As it’s a Sunday evening, it’s still very much the weekend at Bally’s, as evidenced by the “weekend” $25 parking charge. Now, I really wish I had hit that three-team parlay.
The rain has stopped, the sun is out and it’s time to head north on the parkway for hopefully a drama (and traffic) free ride home.
So long, Bally’s. I’m already looking forward to another trip back for NFL playoffs or college basketball’s March Madness.