Hanging out at one of the high-top tables inside The Mirage sportsbook Monday afternoon, Jay Rood reflected on what’s going on 2,500 miles away. Four days earlier, legal sports betting officially launched in New Jersey, with the Borgata in Atlantic City one of just two venues statewide ready to take action that Thursday.
Along with a handful of Vegas sportsbooks Rood oversees as vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts, he now has the Borgata under his purview. And after a smash opening weekend, he couldn’t be happier with his extended responsibilities.
“Business has been unbelievably brisk,” Rood told Covers. “Ticket count Day 1 was 50 percent more than what our Las Vegas sportsbooks did collectively that day. Then Saturday and Sunday, it was like a mini Super Bowl. The novelty of it, everybody wanted to be involved in it.
“It’s a little early to tell on handle. The World Cup and baseball don’t have the brand appeal that the fall sports menu does. But the activity level was high, and the handle will mature into what people think it’s going to be.”
Still, it was an impressive statistic that far more tickets were written at Borgata on Thursday than the combined total of MGM books dotting the Las Vegas Strip. And Rood estimated that handle at Borgata was probably 40 percent of what MGM’s shops did that day, which is solid for a single property.
Read more about New Jersey's opening weekend of legalized sports betting and what's next for the expansion of the industry in the United States.
Much of the early wagering has been on futures, particularly on nearby pro teams: the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants in the NFL, the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
But the World Cup has certainly provided a boost, too. Between futures, World Cup action and baseball, ticket writers and all others behind the counter have gotten very few moments to catch their breath.
“Our crew there has done an insanely good job of adapting,” Rood said, while noting bettors have also adapted well and created a great sports betting atmosphere. “It’s a great social activity that people love to do. At the blackjack tables, they’re all rooting against the dealer. With sports betting, they’re all rooting against me. It brings another level of excitement to the casino floor.”
And another level is on the way. The Borgata’s racebook currently houses the sports betting operation, as well, but not for long.
“We’re going to have a dedicated space, separate from the racebook, but in close proximity to it. The footprint will be revealed soon. It’s gonna be an exciting space,” Rood said, while pointing to a possible opening date. “Could be by Super Bowl. We’ll see.”
Coming much earlier than the Super Bowl: mobile wagering.
“We’re hoping to take advantage of it as soon as the regulatory environment allows us to,” Rood said, adding he expects that to happen before football season, which will surely have a huge impact on handle. “I don’t think handle now is indicative of the future. It’s gonna grow steadily. It’ll stack right up against our Nevada handle, and probably surpass it.”
MGM won’t be alone in Atlantic City, either. William Hill US, the other operator to get going Thursday in New Jersey with its sportsbook at Monmouth Park, will have a book open as part of the grand opening of the Ocean Resort Casino on June 28. Caesars properties and the Golden Nugget will follow this summer.
But Rood is looking forward to Borgata having neighbors in the sports betting market.
“It’s great for Atlantic City, and huge that other casino operators on the boardwalk are embracing it,” he said. “Sports betting is going to drive a lot of business and hopefully revitalize that whole area.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.