Happy Birthday, NJ Sports Betting! Fans And Execs Look Back On A Monster Year One

Written By Bill Gelman on June 14, 2019 - Last Updated on May 17, 2021

Remember those days when we all sat back wondering if sports betting in New Jersey would ever become legal?

That probably seems like a long time ago. And it kinda is. 

But June 14, 2019, marks the first anniversary of the first sports bet placed in the Garden State. If you’d like a trip down memory lane, go here.

But on Wednesday night, during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the excitement surrounding legal sports betting could be seen from inside The Book at Bally’s Atlantic City.

That would be the new permanent 15,228-square-foot space that is gearing up for the weekend’s soft opening. 

Bally’s provided sports bettors a sneak peek of what the second year will bring.

Bottom line? NJ sports betting and its massive online industry have plenty of fans in the state. There’s no reason not to think that the second year will be filled with a similar array of excitement.

The upbeat mood of Atlantic City

Rich Gambardella was one of a handful of fans who heard Bally’s was giving fans a preview of its sportsbook. He wagered on the Boston Bruins, who unfortunately dropped the series 4-3.

However, it didn’t spoil his upbeat mood surrounding NJ sports gambling.

“It has made Atlantic City more of a resort destination. People will want to come here more often than they did before.”

Yes, the Fourth of July is just weeks away, and it marks the official start of the prime season at the Jersey Shore. But right after Labor Day is sports betting’s busiest season — NFL and college football betting.

Gambardella believes the industry has a promising future.

“I think as time goes on they will realize what a benefit it is, and that is why they are building books like this one at Bally’s.

“There is return on the investment, although they may not be making it directly from the sports gambling hold. They’ll make it from food and beverage and other amenities.”

New Jersey plans to build on year one

With New Jersey beating bigger neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and New York out of the sports betting starting gates, they could easily sit back and let the others try to catch up.

After all, NJ has 10 retail sportsbooks and 14 mobile sports betting apps.

By comparison, Pennsylvania has six retail sportsbooks and one recently launched mobile sportsbook (PlaySugarHouse) — minus the iOS version. Yes, it’s the same brand (just different app) that operates under the Monmouth Park license. 

New York is finally gearing up for the launch of retail sports betting. The mobile version, which accounts for more than 80 percent of NJ’s handle, may or may not happen.

In the meantime, we offer up this sampling of what New Jersey sports bettors can look forward to in year two (besides the new book at Bally’s):

But competition is a good thing

But are more-established retail locations such as DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts Atlantic City fearing the idea of these swanky new sports betting spaces?

Play NJ caught up with Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts, on the property last week and asked him specifically about the new sportsbooks at neighboring casinos.

“We think the nicer the area the better. It’s really about attracting the regional customer to Atlantic City and giving those customers a great experience.”

He specifically highlighted March Madness as an example of the impact sports betting is having just footsteps from the Atlantic Ocean.

Giannantonio said about 80% of the people were all new customers, “and that is a good feeling.”

Overall, Resorts couldn’t be happier with the way year one has gone.

“DraftKings’ online sports betting has been tremendous, and they really have a nice niche going in New Jersey. We collaborated on a best-in-class sportsbook that has exceeded our expectations in terms of traffic. Consumers just love it.”

Borgata sportsbook, first and next

Whenever discussing NJ sports betting, Borgata needs to be included in the conversation. After all, the MGM-owned property is where the first legal sports bet took place in AC.

And on a recent Friday afternoon visit, it was clear sports wagering is a big draw with customers.

Chris Chaiazzo, who makes regular trips from North Jersey, said he prefers betting on horse racing but does bet on bigger events, such as the Super BowlNBA Finals, and major golf tournaments such as the US Open.

Speaking of which, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson could be two of the players he backs this week.

In terms of sports betting as a whole, Chaiazzo said it adds enjoyment to the sports viewing experience.

“I like to bet on these local teams, too. When the local teams are playing, it gives you a little more incentive. It makes it more exciting and more interesting to watch.”

Instead of hosting a big one-year anniversary celebration this week, Borgata is focusing all of its attention on the end of June.

There has even been speculation that former NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neil will place the first commercial bet. But we shall see.

Celebrate good times and NJ sports betting

As far as the first year goes, Tom Gable, director of race and sportsbook operations for Borgata, remains pleased with what he is seeing.

“We obviously got off to a quick start and it picked up as we expected it to through summer and leading into the NFL season then basketball season. So it’s really met what we thought it would be,” he said.

And the focus is not just on retail. The Borgata Sports app is the newest platform to the market for now — having launched on May 14.

Gable didn’t hold back his excitement when talking about the Borgata online sportsbook:

“That was something we’ve been looking forward to for a few months. It has gotten off to a good start, and we are going to continue to build that brand moving forward.”

Like a newborn baby, NJ sports betting will continue growing and building on its close to $3 billion handle to date.

And that is worthy of a celebration.

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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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