An ongoing court fight over New Jersey’s sports-betting law means the Atlantic City casinos will be on the sidelines, wagering-wise, for the biggest football game of the year.
One casino executive estimated Atlantic City lost the opportunity to handle between $50 million and $75 million in bets on today’s Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
While there is no legal sports betting in New Jersey yet, that doesn’t mean the casinos aren’t looking to capitalize in other ways on Super Bowl weekend.
“Without a doubt, Super Bowl Sunday is big for us,” said Tom Pohlman, general manager of Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
Pohlman noted that Golden Nugget’s hotel tower will be at near-capacity for the entire weekend. Golden Nugget’s Super Bowl centerpiece will be an invitation-only party for 1,200 of the casino’s premium customers, although other events throughout the property will be open to the public.
Other casinos are also planning parties, prize giveaways and food and drink specials in hopes of boosting business. But one casino executive bluntly said the Super Bowl, without sports betting, may not be such a big deal after all for Atlantic City’s casinos.
“Super Bowl Sunday has become a very social-oriented day in which people plan parties at their home or visits to a friend’s house to watch the game — therefore, a tough day to draw customers to the casino in the past,” said Joe Lupo , senior vice president of operations for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Borgata, Atlantic City’s dominant casino, is not holding any Super Bowl-themed promotions, Lupo said. Instead, Borgata is throwing a $100,000 sweepstakes today to draw the crowds.
“I would envision next year, with the Super Bowl being played at the Meadowlands, you will see many more promotions and visitation to Atlantic City related to the game,” Lupo said of the Super Bowl’s New Jersey location in 2014.
But for this year at least, Atlantic City has lost out on some really big money by not having Las Vegas-style sports betting. New Jersey’s proposed sports-betting law has been held up by a lawsuit filed by some powerful opponents, the NCAA and the professional sports leagues.
“If New Jersey had sports betting, this weekend would be one of the busiest weekends of the year, other than three-day holidays,” Lupo said. “Hotel occupancy would be 100 percent, restaurants would be full, and we would probably expect between $50 million and $75 million in wagers made by the many visitors to Atlantic City.”
The NCAA and the sports leagues believe New Jersey is blocked by a 1992 federal sports-betting ban on all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Those states already had a form of sports betting on the books before the ban took effect. New Jersey argues the ban is unconstitutional because it favors a few states, while barring the rest from a revenue-generating business.
Casino executives were unified in their belief that legal sports betting would have been huge for Atlantic City this Super Bowl weekend.
“It would be off the hook,” said Steve Callender , general manager of Tropicana Casino and Resort.
Pohlman said sports betting on Super Bowl Sunday would mean Atlantic City “would be just as crazy as Las Vegas.”
“If sport betting were currently legal, it would have a huge impact on the excitement and volumes of people. Demand would increase significantly for the rooms and other venues in Atlantic City,” Pohlman said.
Still, Golden Nugget and some other casinos are expecting that the Super Bowl will give them a bump in business. Callender said many of Tropicana’s suites will be the venue for posh, high-roller parties.
“We have some customers who look at this game as a holiday,” he said.
Revel, Atlantic City’s newest casino, expected to be busy throughout the weekend, beginning with rock legend Don Henley’s concert Friday night and followed by football-themed events leading up to the Super Bowl.
Caesars Entertainment said its Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos will be reaching out to football and nonfootball fans alike throughout the weekend by offering food and drink specials as well as spa treatments.
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