ATLANTIC CITY — It was only fitting that the first sports bet placed in an Old West-themed casino involved cowboys.

Scarlette and Michael Hedgepeth, of Halifax, North Carolina, opened legal sports gambling at Bally’s Wild Wild West on Monday morning with a $100 wager at 9-to-1 odds on the Dallas Cowboys to represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl. As Seven Star Total Rewards members, the Hedgepeths were personally invited to be part of history with an early morning phone call.

“We had no idea this was happening,” Scarlette Hedgepeth said with a thick Southern draw and giggle. “(Our host) called and said, ‘Get your butt down here, fast.’”

With the introduction of sports betting at Wild Wild West, Bally’s became the third Atlantic City property to offer the gambling option, which became legal earlier this year following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Bally’s now joins Ocean Resort Casino and Borgata, with more on the way.

Harrah’s Resort plans to begin offering sports betting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City has submitted an application to the Casino Control Commission to license a sports book supervisor and has previously stated it plans to have a sports book open by the start of the NFL season this fall.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., operates Bally’s, Harrah’s and Caesars Atlantic City.

Kevin Ortzman, regional president for Caesars Entertainment Corp., said the company had an advantage in being able to quickly offer sports betting in Atlantic City because of its experience operating books in Las Vegas. Sports betting, Ortzman said, helps expand the properties’ offerings to those who don’t fit the traditional mold of a casino gambler.

“We have found that the majority of sports bettors are not the same as our core gamers,” he said. “So this brings a whole new customer to Atlantic City.”

Joe Nagle, 29, and Andrew Irvin, 29, both from the Philadelphia area, agree with Ortzman’s take on what sports betting means for the resort. Nagle said he believes sports betting will “save Atlantic City.”

“I think (sports betting) is the only thing that will actually bring (the city) back,” he said, standing over a betting line sheet Monday morning at Wild Wild West. “It’s going to be awesome. Sit back, drink a couple beers and watch some sports. It’s (expletive) awesome.”

The effective rollout of sports betting across the state has been aided by gaming regulators’ preparation for its eventual legality, which dates to 2013, according to Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David L. Rebuck.

“We’ve been researching best models for sports wagering and developing the New Jersey model for years,” he said. “So, when the law was finally passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor back in June, we were light years ahead of the industry in being ready for New Jersey.”

The next push for New Jersey is the launch of online and mobile sports betting.

Mark Frissora, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment, said the company plans to “quickly introduce” mobile and online sports betting in New Jersey.

The 8,190-square-foot temporary sports book inside Wild Wild West features 30 leather chairs situated in front of three large television screens and five smaller screens. Behind the seating area are four long high-top tables with a dozen or more chairs each. Previously closed cashier windows located diagonally across from the seating and viewing area serve as sports wagering windows.

Harrah’s temporary sports book, located near the Total Rewards Center, looks similar to the one in Bally’s in terms of amenities and layout. On Monday, the space featured 28 leather chairs, six hightop tables and five screens for viewing.

Caesars Entertainment partnered with ScientificGames, a Las Vegas-based lottery and gambling service provider.

“With OpenBet, our powerful and robust sports book platform, Caesars will have a truly open platform and end-to-end product suite that delivers the very best and flexible solutions and has proven success managing the largest share of the world’s online bets, more than 2 billion online bets annually,” said Barry Cottle, president and CEO at Scientific Games. “Our SG Digital team is excited to help Caesars stay ahead of the game, as they work to expand their sports betting, digital and mobile offerings into newly regulated markets.”

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the first Atlantic City property to offer legal sports wagering when it formally introduced the Race & Sports Book on June 14. Ocean Resort Casino was the first Boardwalk property to offer sports betting, which began when the casino hotel opened June 28.

Contact: 609-272-7258

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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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