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How Borgata became first A.C. casino to offer sports betting

How Borgata became first A.C. casino to offer sports betting

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ATLANTIC CITY — The legalization of sports betting in New Jersey will produce countless winners — and losers — but no one in the city was more victorious on Thursday than Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

Atlantic City’s most profitable casino made history by being the first in the resort to offer sports betting and industry experts said that was not by accident.

Bob Ambrose, a professor of casino management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a gaming consultant, said the 15-year-old property owned by MGM Resorts International has a reputation for being “ahead of the curve.”

He said he “would have been disappointed” if the casino hotel had not been first in line to offer the highly anticipated gaming amenity in Atlantic City.

“Borgata has always been a front-runner when it comes to what’s next in the industry,” Ambrose said Friday. “They have a history of visionary thinking, so it’s not surprising.”

In August 2016, MGM bought out its operating partner, Boyd Gaming, for $900 million.

The combination of MGM’s experience and the existing facility inside the casino, formerly known as The Racebook but now called the Race & Sports Book, made the transition seamless for Borgata, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group.

Pollock said Borgata was “determined to be first” and made sure that when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Monday legalizing sports wagering at New Jersey’s racetracks and Atlantic City casinos, the casino hotel would be prepared.

“The Borgata has a culture of wanting to be an industry leader and to maintain its status as an industry leader,” Pollock said. “So, I think the team in place saw the opportunity and executed promptly and effectively. It really is that simple.”

Prior to Thursday’s launch, Marcus Glover, president of Borgata, said “quite a bit” of planning went into offering sports betting at the Race & Sports Book. Glover said discussions started as far back as October when the company “felt positive things were moving in the right direction” in terms of legalized sports betting coming to New Jersey.

MGM will run Borgata’s wagering options “from afar” while the property is “executing on the front line,” Glover said. MGM operates eight sports books at its various properties in Las Vegas, including at the MGM Grand, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay.

“This is one where our parent company, MGM Resorts, has been doing this now for 25 years or so (in Las Vegas) so they bring tons of expertise,” Glover said. “We feel pretty good about our prospects in terms of offering a great experience, being an expert, offering every wager that would be something people would want to place a wager on.”

The legislation Murphy signed Monday states New Jersey sports betting licensees must wait 30 days before online wagers can be offered. Glover said he anticipates having online sports betting “as quickly as we can.”

No other Atlantic City casinos have announced when they will begin offering sports betting, but Ambrose said the next likely candidates are Golden Nugget Atlantic City or Caesars Atlantic City, both of which have connections to Las Vegas operated sports books.

“The Golden Nugget has been pursuing the next big thing (since new ownership took over),” he said. “They have a tendency to look ahead.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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