ATLANTIC CITY — The seed was planted May 30, 2015, when Ron Jaworski grabbed the microphone during an Arena Football League game between the Philadelphia Soul and the Las Vegas Outlaws at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, looked out at the announced crowd 6,514, and announced that the AFL would be back.
Four years later, it’s about to bloom in a big way. But it’s a seed that might not have been planted if New Jersey hadn’t adopted legalized sports gambling last June.
The Atlantic City Blackjacks made their debut Saturday, losing 48-41 to the Soul at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Their first-ever home game will be May 4 at Boardwalk Hall against the Columbus Destroyers, the AFL’s other expansion team.
“That was such a great event that I knew an Arena League franchise could work here,” Jaworski said. “I’ve always believed Atlantic City is a great sports market and that the community would support it.”
The league’s top executives — including President John Adams, Commissioner Randall Boe, Executive Committee President Jaworski, Brigade/Valor Owner Ted Leonis and Trifecta Sports & Entertainment President George Manias — wanted to expand.
“We wanted to grow the league this year, but we had to make sure we had proper ownership and that we expanded in the right markets,” Manias said. “With sports betting, we figured Atlantic City would be great from a synergy standpoint. The potential for real-time betting and fantasy football (through a partnership with DraftKings) make Atlantic City a great starting-off point.”