- I took in the sights at Monmouth Park and the Borgata on Day 1 of legalized sports betting in New Jersey.
- Monmouth Park had cheap beer ($4) and some nice food trucks outside.
- The Borgata closed way too early, preventing me from cashing my MLB parlay winner until the next morning.
Yesterday was a historic day: The debut of legal sports gambling in New Jersey. The 10:30 a.m. opening at Monmouth Park brought out all sorts of people — experienced and novice gamblers, politicians and media personalities, and, of course, characters such as yours truly.
— Eric Ramsey (@Eric_Ramsey) June 14, 2018
I’m not much a fan of New Jersey, but I spent Thursday traipsing up and down the Garden State to bring you an unfiltered look at how New Jersey is taking to its new sports-betting reality. Let’s start on the Shore …
It was a madhouse in the beginning: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy threw some money down on the Devils to win the Stanley Cup (best of luck with that one, Mr. Governor) and Germany to win the World Cup. Stu Feiner shouted to anyone who would listen about his $5,000 White Sox bet (the Indians won 5-2 … sorry Stu).
Day 1 also came with some confusion, which is to be expected. The newbie bettors took more time and had more questions about moneylines and five-inning MLB prop bets than you typically see in Vegas. No biggie, though. All part of the experience of being there on Day 1.
Overall, I thought the William Hill operation at Monmouth ran pretty smoothly for the first day. It’s a very nice racetrack on the Jersey Shore, with some nicer amenities than most tracks.
It had cheap beer ($4), some delicious food trucks and betting (both of my Monmouth tickets cashed, obviously) all in one place. The American dream, baby, coming soon to a state near you!
After leaving Monmouth, I began the 75-minute drive south on the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City. As I cruised down the highway, windows down, Elvis blaring, scarf blowing in the wind, I began to get excited for the Borgata and the true casino experience in Atlantic City. Now, I have been there before, and it’s a nice place to stay with quality rooms, a nice gaming floor and a large number of dining options for a casino of its size. I was optimistic about the sportsbook. As it turns out, maybe too optimistic.
The Borgata has essentially turned its racebook into a sportsbook. This presents a couple of problems, the first of which is its sheer size. It’s simply not big enough to accommodate the number of people the Borgata brings in. The second problem, tied to the first, is seating. In a racebook, much of the seating is in front of individual television sets and is reserved. And that makes up 90% of the seating at the Borgata, which was problematic throughout the day.
I managed to fight my way through the crowds and place a bet on the under in the first five innings of the Yankees game, which was set at 4.5. With two runs on the board heading into the fifth inning, I felt pretty good. I felt even better when the Yankees retired the Rays with no runs and then put up two outs in the bottom of the fifth. There were two on, but Blake Snell had been throwing well for the Rays. Enter, Gleyber Torres.
Apparently Mr. Torres had no sympathy for us under bettors and decided to hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the fifth to send the total over. After a string of profanities and a new drink order, I remembered this wasn’t all bad news. I had thrown $20 on a parlay at the window of the Borgata just on impulse, and the Yankees moneyline was on that ticket. That took some of the sting out of the Torres home run.
That particular parlay ticket featured two early games and two late games. I had the Yankees over the Rays, the Braves over the Padres, the Diamondbacks over the Mets and Red Sox over the Mariners. The Yankees and Braves did their jobs in the early games. As I was watching these games, another frustration with the setup of the sportsbook came into focus: the televisions.
The Borgata has giant screens like a Vegas book, but all the big screens featured horse racing, even past 11 p.m. Baseball was relegated to small corner screens, which were not HD and difficult to see from some seats. When asked by some to put a game on a larger screen, the casino staff declined.
In any event, my sweat began in earnest with the Red Sox-Mariners game in Seattle. I wasn’t that concerned about the D-Backs, as they were playing the Mets, and at this point, me and eight guys reading this could give the Mets a game. Sure enough, Arizona took care of business.
Meanwhile the Red Sox jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on the M’s, but Seattle came back to tie it up a couple innings later. But in the top of the very next inning Xander Bogaerts knocked one out of the park to give Boston a 2-1 lead. That lead would hold up over the next three innings, which were packed with pressure and tension as I waited to cash my parlay ticket.
As the game was ending, I realized the final and potentially biggest issue with the Borgata’s sportsbook. All the betting windows at the front of the room had CLOSED signs in front of them. I was curious, so I walked up to the ticket window and asked when they close; they responded by saying after the last race of the night ends.
No problem, I thought, when Vegas books close, you can walk to any cashier window in the casino and cash your ticket. I assumed the same would be the case here — the MGM owns Borgata. But no such luck. The ticket can be cashed only at the sportsbook, which opens at 11 a.m. That is not a huge problem for me, but if people are checking out of the hotel and leaving early, it could cause an issue for some.
Overall, many of the issues I experienced can be chalked up to growing pains, which will be solved in time. While none of these new sports gambling locations will fully replicate or replace the Las Vegas experience, it is nice to be able to walk in a casino or a racetrack and make a bet on a sporting event that day. There’s nothing better than handing that ticket in and receiving cold, hard cash in return.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a parlay to go cash.