ATLANTIC CITY — Right after Elvis and Sinatra made their bet — a losing bet it turned out — a Caesars Entertainment executive was talking about the latest casino to add sports betting.
"This is a game-changer in our business," said Bill Sattler, the company's director of specialty gaming.
Harrah's on Wednesday became Atlantic City's fourth casino to open the sports-betting windows. Like the others, its quarters are temporary. Four tellers are in an open parlor near the McCormick & Schmick's, where the New England clam chowder is terrific, by the way.
Ocean Resort, the first to open sports betting in A.C., is still populated with construction workers trying to finish before football gets going in earnest. The Borgata's sports book is small, but expansion is coming. And Bally's Wild Wild West, also owned by Caesars, has similar plans for something more elaborate.
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Meanwhile, Pennsylvania sleeps. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, as of Wednesday morning, had not received a single petition among licensees for the right to offer sports betting. New York state also has failed to implement sports betting.
"This is historic," Sattler continued. "If you would have asked me two to three years ago, I would have said [sports betting in New Jersey] would never have happened in my lifetime. We have so many people in the tri-state area that come to Vegas. They're not going to be making as many trips – though we hope they do."
He's right. They will not.
Why pay hundreds in airfare while suffering the indignities of cross-country travel when Atlantic City is a short drive away – an hour from Philadelphia, two hours from Manhattan. Ever been to Vegas during a big sporting event? If Sattler is right, you won't ever need to again.
"The energy is going to be completely different during football, the Super Bowl, March Madness and even during the NBA season if the Sixers continue to play well and the Knicks get a little help down the road," he said. "The energy is going to be incredible."
Pennsylvania casinos are required to pay 36 percent in state tax on top of a $10 million licensing fee. That's the law. So until that requirement changes to something that operators would find more palatable, it's Delaware's three racetracks with sports betting and the Jersey Shore offering even more.
The scene Wednesday at Harrah's was quaint, especially when they brought the impersonators from their Legends in Concert show that is playing at Harrah's through Sept. 2 to make ceremonial (but real) bets.
Sinatra (Brian Duprey) and Elvis (Kevin Mills) each bet $100 on the run line for the Yankees to beat the Orioles on Wednesday. Mills is from the Packer Park neighborhood in South Philly. The Orioles, who were 43 games below .500, held on to beat the Yankees. Not even Elvis beats the house.
Baseball's nice, but football is king when it comes to sports betting. Opening five weeks before the Eagles and Falcons kick the NFL season off allows these sports books to work out the kinks.
"I think by the end of the year, Jersey has a larger handle for football than we do in the state of Nevada," Sattler predicted.
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Nevada's handle in 2017 for football was $1.7 billion, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Sports books won more than $76.8 million on football. At New Jersey's 9.5 percent tax rate, that's around $7 million in tax revenue just for football. And those are Nevada's numbers. Sattler thinks Jersey's will be even larger.
"That's how big it's going to be," he said, "and with a lot fewer sports books, as well."
Word is Resorts Casino is hoping to start accepting sports bets by Aug. 15. Its 'book operators, DraftKings, launched mobile betting on an invite-only basis early Wednesday evening … The chairman of MGM Resorts, Jim Murren, said Tuesday that his company — which is the parent of the Borgata — would have mobile betting by the end of the week. Caesars and William Hill-US, which runs the sports book at Ocean Resort are hoping for the end of August …
The Ocean, which continues to offer free parking through Sept. 3, won't have its TV mess untangled until renovations are complete. The bar next to the sportsbook is wired with DirecTV, which does not offer Phillies games that are televised exclusively on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Joe Asher, William Hill's CEO, said the issue is with the wiring and the infrastructure with the temporary digs. He expects renovations to be completed by the end of August, if not before.
With the Phillies on the West Coast next week, keep in mind that A.C.'s sportsbooks will close before those night games end. Bally's, Harrah's and Borgata will honor winning tickets for games that end late at their main cashier cages or by mail. Ocean Resort winners will have to be brought the following day or mailed in.