On the last Thursday in July, I took a summer afternoon to observe the sports books at the Borgata and Ocean Resort casinos in Atlantic City. Here are some observations about the two and some analysis of their betting offerings.
Since opening in 2003, the Borgata has been the gold standard in the East Coast’s gambling Mecca. Now two towers shine in the Marina district as beacons to bettors and tourists. On Friday mornings during football season, Borgata hosts Angelo Cataldi and his WIP radio sports talk show. Everyone has an impression of Cataldi’s signature “The Bor-GADA, Al”. If you really want to do a fancy weekend in AC, that’s where you go.
The Borgata’s sportsbook, right off the main entrance, doubles as an OTB location and was packed on a Thursday afternoon. The set up resembles a legislative chamber, with bettors offered their own monitor at their seat. Many were tuned to race tracks across the country. The lone baseball game played on a larger monitor near the bar in the back. Cashier windows sat in the front, marked as either “race” or “sports”. The book opens at 11 a.m. daily, closing at 11:30 Sunday-Thursday and midnight Friday-Saturday. No bets are accepted 30 minutes before closing and the limit is $500.
Ocean Resort has stepped up as the latest contender to the crown Borgata has worn for over a decade. Reviving the glittering frame of the failed Revel, it’s shiny, open, and full of ocean views. Sinatra’s songs greet you at the entrance and escalators whisk you to the expansive casino floor upstairs. It stands apart from established residents of the Boardwalk with a swankier feel without customers feeling overwhelmed or put-upon by the elegance.
Central on the betting floor is the sportsbook, operated by British mainstay William Hill. The company has many locations in Nevada and now three on the East Coast. The book wasn’t as lively as Borgata but things were in place for customers. The facility will expand to accommodate more customers as football season draws near. The book stays open until midnight on the weekdays and 1 a.m. on the weekends. Sources say these hours will expand to 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. to accommodate bettors when the NFL kicks off.
Kindofa vig deal
In perusing the offerings at both books, I was impressed with the amount and diversity of action offered at each location. Both had broadsheets full of lines, futures, and props. Borgata printed thirteen different menus of bets (some double-sided prints, very eco-friendly), ranging from the day’s baseball games to the Super Bowl odds. Their boxing odds for upcoming bouts appeared the only one listed on the digital boards that wasn’t committed to print. William Hill had the boxing odds on paper, as I grabbed 19 different sheets of action, all single sided.
One area of specific interest when books open in New Jersey has been the vigorish. The house’s cut at the FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands became subject of online ridicule earlier this month. It’s an important aspect of winning confidence and converting customers from unregulated betting markets. In New Jersey, a market long dominated by pari-mutuel games like poker and horse racing, this may become a bigger issue than other states.
Both books offered action on the 11 MLB games played July 26. At Borgata, no game went off with a money line vig below 20.
- The heavily-favored Yankees were -280 as they hosted the Royals at +240.
- The Angels were -200 against the White Sox at +170.
- The Phillies were +105 underdogs as Ranger Suarez made his MLB debut at Cincinnati (-125).
William Hill had a money line vig of 10 on 9 of those 11 games. The Phillies were actually bigger underdogs at Hill (+121) and the Reds bigger favorites (-131). The Yankees (-260) and Royals (+230) had a smaller vig, as did the Angels (-180) and the White Sox (+165). However, both books had larger vigs on the total lines (20 each game). Both books also had the same vig (20) in nine of the 11 runline bets. The two lower vigs both appeared at William Hill. Both books offered first five innings action but only Hill gave prop bets on first-inning scoring, along with alternate and reverse run-line scoring.
Let’s talk football
There’s a reason the state legislature and gambling entities in NJ worked quickly to get sportsbooks open after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA: football season. The NFL and college football drive legal and not-so-legal sports betting in this country. Billions go out annually on single-game bets, teasers, parlays, futures odds, fantasy football and all the props.
In the Garden State, two NFL teams play in the borders and one has a strong fan base among the citizens. One William Hill executive last month said a sports betting conference that Eagles fans bet the team when they’re good and against them when they’re not. In Delaware where only multi-team parlays were legal last season, the books got burned by the Birds on their way to the Super Bowl (it will never get old writing about that world championship).
Recently on Twitter, ESPN’s David Purdum took a question from a fan about NFL win total lines available at the NJ books. Mr. Purdum noted that those prop bets were available at FanDuel’s book at the new Meadowlands Racetrack and William Hill’s book at Monmouth Park. Well @frankiethefxr, good news: both books in AC currently have win totals available as well.
As with other action, it appears William Hill takes a smaller vig than the Borgata. Hill’s odds were also updated more recently than Borgata’s.
In a deeper dive, the books also seem to have different positions on win totals even when they reach the same number. For the Eagles, both set the line at 10 ½ wins. While the Borgata over is -120 (down from -130), Hill has that even and -120 for the under. That price would entice optimistic fans who expect another strong campaign for the defending SB champs to pick Hill for the better price. Think 11 wins is too much with this schedule and the bullseye that comes with the crown? Borgata has a -110 on the under.
Of the 32 NFL teams, the two books only agree on 10 win totals. 18 times the Borgata offers the higher number; four times it’s Hill. For Giants fans, the offerings can present a dilemma. Borgata likes the 7.5 total with an even over and under of -130 (the book opened the team at -115 each way). Hill has its at 6.5, -170 for over and +150 for under. I find this choice interesting as it suggests the expectation is for the Giants to finish 7-9 with their new offensive pieces. Neither book offered a total for Eli Face (that perpetually befuddled look the Giants QB has when he walks off the field after throwing yet another INT despite being in this league for well over a decade. Pairs well with a nice Merlot-shaded Coughlin Face.)
You think the Eagles will defend their title? So do the books. At Borgata, Philly is co-favorite with New England to win SB LIII at 7/1. They’re 3/1 to win the NFC. Hill likes them but not as much. The Eagles are the second choice in the NFC (9/2 behind the +425 Rams) and the SB race (8/1 behind the 6/1 Pats). Hill also has the Eagles a shorter favorite for the season opener against Atlanta (3.5 pt faves vs. 4 at Borgata, -190 vs. -215 on the ML). Both books installed the Eagles -180 favorites to repeat as NFC East Champs.
Neither casino offered comment for this piece.