ATLANTIC CITY — A new era of gaming was ushered in Thursday with a Philadelphia sports icon and the state’s top lawmaker proudly holding up wager slips after placing the first legal sports bets at a resort casino.
Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and Senate President Steve Sweeney were first in line at the Race & Sports Book inside Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and placed wagers on the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, respectively, to win the Super Bowl next February. Erving placed a $5 wager on the Eagles with 8-1 odds, while Sweeney bet $200 on Green Bay at 10-1 odds.
“This couldn’t be a better birthday present for Borgata and our team members today to bring on another form of entertainment,” said Marcus Glover, president of the casino hotel, which is celebrating its 15th year this summer. “(Sports betting) brings a sense of vibrancy and adds to the excitement that already exists inside the four walls of Borgata today. …Today, Borgata leads the way as New Jersey enters a new era of sports entertainment.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, who placed the state’s first legal wager at Monmouth Park Racetrack 30 minutes prior to the festivities at Borgata, was in Atlantic City later in the day speaking at the East Coast Gaming Congress & NextGen Gaming Forum at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center. After he delivered the keynote address, Murphy headed over to Borgata, where he placed a $20 bet on the New York Mets and a second wager on Martin Truex Jr. to win an upcoming NASCAR race.
“Obviously the specific revenue associated with sports betting is going to be significant and growing, but it’s going to have a knock-on impact,” Murphy said while leaving Borgata.
“You can see, instead of going to Las Vegas for a NFL playoff weekend, you could see people posting up here in Atlantic City.”
Tom Barton, of Long Island, New York, was the first non-politician or celebrity to place a legal sports wager. Barton, who operates a betting information website called Sportsgarten, said he was also the first person to place a sports bet in Delaware on June 5.
“It’s a fun bet for me today,” he said with a smile when asked what his wager was going to be. “I don’t like anything on the board really.”
Barton was standing outside the Race & Sports Book with Geoff Lang, of Boca Raton, Florida, Jesse Goldich, of Egg Harbor Township, and Dan Williams, of Ocean City.
“I can’t wait, man. I’ve been waiting for this for years,” Williams said.
Lang, who runs BeatinTheBookie.com, said he thinks sports betting is “going to bring Atlantic City back” by attracting people from neighboring states and pulling gamblers away from Las Vegas.
“It’s going to be a huge boost to the economy,” Goldich said. “This is going to be huge for A.C.”
Murphy, Sweeney and Glover all extended gratitude and recognition to former Gov. Chris Christie and former state Sen. Ray Lesniak, who both led the charge to legalize sports gaming in the state, resulting in a legal battle that lasted nearly seven years and moved all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. New Jersey ultimately prevailed in the case against five major sports leagues on May 14, when the high court struck down the 1992 federal ban on sports wagering.
“At the end of the day, this is not a big tax generator,” Sweeney said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about bringing people into Atlantic City and helping continue the progress.”
Mayor Frank Gilliam, City Council President Marty Small Sr., Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Burzichelli, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Deputy Executive Director Matt Doherty, Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis and Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck were also in attendance Thursday.
Gilliam said he was “extremely proud to be Atlantic City’s mayor right now” and said sports gaming added to the “energy and excitement” that is happening right now, referring to the June 28 opening of both Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, as well Stockton University’s Gateway Project, South Jersey Gas’ new headquarters and the 600 North Beach housing development in the South Inlet.
Small, wearing an Eagles Super Bowl pin on his suit jacket lapel, placed a $50 bet on the Philadelphia Phillies and said he would return later to place an “undisclosed amount of cash” on his favorite football team.
He was the first Atlantic City resident to place a legal sports wager at a casino.
“It’s a great day for Atlantic City, for residents and tourists who have a desire to place a legal wager on sports,” he said. “It will definitely bring visitors to the city.”