William Hill Sports Book at Tropicana Atlantic City (copy)

People attend the opening of William Hill sportsbook at Tropicana Atlantic City on March 8. William Hill also runs the sportsbook at Ocean Resort.

ATLANTIC CITY — Sports betting is legal in New Jersey for the first time during March Madness, and the resort’s sportsbooks are ready for college basketball’s premier event.

The annual NCAA men’s Division I college basketball tournament rivals the Super Bowl as the largest sports betting event in Nevada — the only state where legal wagers were accepted until last year — and Atlantic City sportsbook operators are anticipating similar results when the games begin Tuesday.

“The first weekend of March Madness is the biggest weekend in Las Vegas for sports, and I’m sure it’s going to be the same thing here,” said Steve Callender, senior vice president of operations for the East region of Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts. “My expectations are high.”

A record-breaking $437 million was wagered at Las Vegas sportsbooks on basketball overall in March 2018, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Sin City’s casinos collected more than $38 million in revenue from basketball bets during that time.

“Those (first) four days are like betting the Super Bowl everyday,” said Joe Grande, assistant general manager of Ocean Resort Casino. “We definitely expect an influx of incremental business based on March Madness. We are anticipating that and are planning for it.”

Atlantic City’s sportsbook operators have been gearing up for the three-week long tournament with promotions, viewing parties and increased odds with the goal of bringing people into Atlantic City during the tournament.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City opened its temporary sports book five days before this year’s Super Bowl and is already prepared for the tournament.

“March Madness is exciting for us, as it’s a launch with promotions that will position us competitively in the market,” said Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Atlantic City. “The second phase of our sportsbook will be opening in the next few weeks, and we’re confident that it will be favored by our guests.”

Caesars Entertainment Corp., which operates sportsbooks at two of of its three Atlantic City casinos — The Book at both Bally’s and Harrah’s Resort — has rate specials on rooms complete with food and beverage packages. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which was the first Atlantic City casino to offer legal sports betting, also has March Madness-inspired packages.

Both Tropicana and Ocean Resort are partnered with William Hill U.S., which is offering a matching offer up to $50 on its online and mobile sportsbook platform.

Resorts Casino Hotel and its sports betting partner Draft-Kings have put together a promotion that entices people to Atlantic City. A March Madness parlay bet — a single wager on multiple outcomes — placed at the sportsbook inside Resorts will get boosted odds up to 20 percent. Winning wagers are credited to a bettor’s online or mobile DraftKings account.

The idea capitalizes on the strength of the DraftKings brand while promoting the 5,000-square foot facility in Atlantic City.

“It’s a win-win,” said Hal Tendler, manager of the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts. “It’s a great deal for our guests, it helps the retail (sportsbook) and online.”

New Jersey legalized sports betting in June after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal regulation which limited single-game wagers to Nevada.

“This is an exciting time for American sports bettors,” said Casey Clark, vice president of strategic communications for the American Gaming Association. “As the first March Madness in post-PASPA America gets underway next week, consumers in New Jersey and seven other states have new, safe ways to engage in the tournament.”

Since the introduction of sports betting in the Garden State, nearly $2 billion has been wagered at Atlantic City casinos, New Jersey’s two licensed racetracks or through online and mobile sites. The new gaming amenity has contributed to Atlantic City casino revenue growth, which has increased every month since June compared to last year.

“As we head into March, with March Madness and baseball season approaching, we are very hopeful that Atlantic City will continue to grow as a destination resort for visitors,” said Kevin Ortzman, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and regional president for Caesars Entertainment.

Legalized sports betting in Atlantic City is offered at Bally’s Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Hard Rock, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Ocean Resort and Tropicana. Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport (Monmouth County) and Meadowlands Race Track in East Rutherford (Bergen County) also offer sports betting.

Contact: 609-272-7222 ddanzis@pressofac.com 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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