Atlantic City paying attention and listening to sports bettors
October 10, 2018 3:00 AM
by Bill Krackomberger
I am writing this week’s article from the sunny boardwalk of Atlantic City, where it has been 75 to 80 degrees almost every single day for the last month.
However, all of that is about to change, as winters are brutal in New Jersey; particularly in Atlantic City. Soon, old man winter will be beating up the boards on the outside, and the casinos hope to be doing the same to the customers on the inside.
This winter’s’ clear winners will be will be the casinos with the sports books. I witnessed this first-hand on Saturday night at the Ocean Atlantic City sports book where they were showing the UFC 229 card for free. I have never witnessed a sports book that was so busy in my life (including the Super Bowl). There were approximately 150 people in line to make bets, and about 2,000 people were trying to cram into the sports book to watch the fight.
While I understand sports books typically hold less than five percent of the volume, it is the secondary and non-gaming income which these casinos are going to profit from big-time. Many of the millennials who are betting $20-$100 on their favorite teams are the same people who are making a day out of it with their spouses and spending money on rooms, dinners and alcohol.
A great example of this was on Sunday morning. I went to breakfast at Ocean’s at a place called Harper‘s. Coffees were $6 each, pancakes were $21, and a side of sausage was $11. While the place was very good; we East-coasters call this type of place a “bust-out-joint.” Breakfast for two was over $80! The key point being that every single table was taken, with a wait out the door, and guess what? It was, for the most part, the young crowd that had been there to watch the fight the previous night in the sports book.
Now, this is not the Atlantic City of the 80’s. In 2018, at least 90 percent are paying for their meal. The bottom line is that the sports book is really the reason the place was packed.
I was also at the Golden Nugget sports book on Saturday and witnessed something that I have not seen in other sports books before. They are using a European company to book their bets, and therefore, they do not use the rotation number, like Las Vegas uses.
This is something that is very new to the customers and clerks alike. Something else that was new to me was that I had to pay for each bet individually before going on to the next bet. For example, if I wanted to make three bets for $1,100 each, I had to pay for each one individually before I went onto the next.
I tweeted about this experience, and how it slows down not only the customer, but also the volume that the sports book can write for the day. Then, about 40 minutes later, I noticed a few of the executives huddling around and pointing at me. I thought I was going to be backed off for winning.
When they approached me, one of the guys extended his hand and introduced himself, “Hi, I am Tom Pohlman, I’m the president of the Golden Nugget and I’d like to speak to you about your tweet.” He went on to say he appreciated me bringing this matter to his attention, and changes are on the horizon, for they (like every other casino in town) just threw things together in a rush to get the sports book open.
I can honestly say that I cannot name another place in the world where the president of a casino is going to address a problem first-hand like this. Normally, someone in a position such as casino president, is nearly impossible to get to. Further, even if you do, the last thing they want to do is answer questions.
I really have to give credit to Tom, and all his staff for going out of their way to be helpful. This kind of thing starts at the top, and credit can also be given to Tillman Fertitta, the billionaire owner of the Golden Nugget, for knowing how to treat people right. I have personally been in his presence many times, including having dinner with him and have seen him get his hands dirty in the kitchen with my own eyes.
I am rooting for you, Atlantic City!
Let’s root for these games this weekend too: Alabama-Missouri Over 74; Central Michigan -2.
Last week: 2-1