Las Vegas is a Super Bowl weekend destination.
Atlantic City is not on the same level, but from an East Coast perspective, it’s quickly becoming the place to watch and wager on the big game.
Besides the eight NJ retail sportsbooks, there wasn’t any shortage of viewing parties.
No matter where guests were watching, Super Bowl 54 included a thrilling finish in which the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20.
Judging by the Super Bowl numbers released Monday night, bettors enjoyed a victory celebration of their own.
But the $54.2 million in handle is proof that Super Bowl betting is a major attraction.
As far as the party scene, Hard Rock Atlantic City hosted the biggest one. I decided to make a few stops to get that Big Game pulse.
Borgata has its own moneyline
The MGM-owned Borgata was the first stop.
This time last year, Moneyline Bar & Book was still in the planning stages, and the Borgata Sports app had not even launched.
So I was curious to check out the vibe. The ringtoss and other games were set up footsteps away from the casino floor. Others were taking selfies in front of the special Bud Light throne.
The guests were slowly trickling into the Moneyline.
The tables closest to the video wall were all reserved; however, I didn’t hang around long enough to see how crowded it got.
A quick stop at DraftKings Sportsbook
It was still a little more than an hour before kickoff when I arrived. Clearly, every one of the seats was going to be filled, judging by the seating chart that a DraftKings’ staff member was holding.
Customers were busy placing bets at the kiosks inside and outside of the venue.
I returned during the Jennifer Lopez and Shakira halftime show and noticed the crowd had expanded to outside of the sportsbook.
Talking with a couple of customers during the second visit, I learned not everybody was there to bet on Patrick Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo. They just wanted to watch the game and commercials.
Hard Rock Live had Super Bowl Live
With kickoff fast approaching, I made my way over to Hard Rock Live at Mark G. Etess Arena. Instead of Pitbull or Carrie Underwood taking the stage, giant TV screens were set up so 2,000 spectators could watch the game.
Former Philadelphia Eagles Brent Celek and Clyde Simmons even attended as special guests.
But the fact that Super Bowl was being played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami was not the reason for hosting the big bash.
Hard Rock AC president Joe Lupo said that this is the standard moving forward every year.
“It’s really the first year we’ve been able to have the Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena available to us,” said Lupo. “We just want to have a great party and invite a lot of people in.”
Many of those guests were staying overnight, as the hotel was completely booked.
“So this is really what sports betting has enabled us to do. It’s more than just betting,” said Lupo.
“It’s about the whole environment, the experience. Just like it has been in Vegas for years.”
DGE approved special arrangements
The party plans also included getting permission from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to open betting windows at the Hard Rock Live concession area.
It saved guests the hassle of walking out to the gaming floor.
The other option, of course, was placing bets using the Hard Rock Sportsbook app. First, this involved getting a strong Wi-Fi signal inside the arena. Lupo said that making sure customers had access was important.
“Big events like this (are) what it’s all about. You can’t have a better mechanism like this and March Madness,” said Lupo.
Second half + The Book at Bally’s
The center of the Boardwalk, more specifically The Book at Bally’s, was my final stop. Being that it resembles the one on the Las Vegas Strip, there was no doubt I would find a capacity crowd.
We are talking about all 200-plus seats filled. The five fan caves were reserved, too.
With the entire seating section roped off, I found a spot in the back. There was still a great view of the giant LED TV wall. I seemed to be surrounded by bettors with big money riding on the 49ers.
One of them chose Bally’s over the closer-to-home Pennsylvania sportsbooks. He seemed pretty confident that the Niners’ moneyline would turn out to be a winner.
He was among those cheering and giving high-fives when San Francisco had a 20-10 advantage. But we all know what happened in the final 6:13 of the fourth quarter.
The 21 unanswered points by the Chiefs sent several other bettors home with extra cash. They started lining up before the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Even though things didn’t pan out for the one bettor I chatted with, I wouldn’t be surprised if we run into each other again in early February.
“It’s beautiful,” he said of The Book. “These screens are very clear, quality TVs. I will come here next year, for sure.”
Judging by the high-energy vibe around town, Super Bowl weekend at Atlantic City casinos is now an annual event that will keep getting more popular.