ATLANTIC CITY — The Wild Wild West Casino at Bally's just got a little wilder, as the resort became the third Atlantic City property to accept sports betting.
Windows opened a little after 11 a.m. Monday with a wager that quickly made Eagles fans squeamish.
"Y'all might not like me," joked Starlette Hedgepeth, a charming Southern belle from tiny Halifax, N.C., "but I have the Cowboys." She bet 100 bucks on Dallas to win the NFC at 9-1 odds. The Eagles are 5-1 to win the NFC at Bally's, 10-1 to win the Super Bowl.
Hedgepeth's allegiance to the Cowboys goes back to her childhood days. Last year, though, she took an interest in the Eagles after seeing ESPN's heart-wrenching story about Carson Wentz bonding with a terminally ill child.
"He's such a special, special person," she said. "After I saw that … I said 'we're pulling for them [too]. We're pulling for them.'"
Bally's joins the Ocean Resort and the Borgata as sports betting in Atlantic City heats up with football season on the horizon. The first NFL preseason game will be Thursday when Chicago plays Baltimore in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
Bally's, Caesars, and Harrah's are the three Atlantic City properties owned by Caesars Entertainment. The sportsbook at Bally's will serve customers staying at Caesars, as the hotels are conjoined. Harrah's, located in the Marina district of Atlantic City, will open its sportsbook on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Casinos generally make very little profit from sports betting. It's the ancillary spending that is the attraction. Put 20 bucks on a game and go spend $50 on dinner — that kind of thing.
"I think the sports betting population isn't necessarily [our] core gamers that would have visited before," said Kevin Ortzman, regional president for Caesars' Atlantic City properties. "Now we have a different opportunity for more people to come in, and to the extent that we're able to integrate all of our other offerings, now we have a real compelling reason for those folks to come here."
The five-window site that Bally's opened Monday is temporary. Ortzman has big plans for the Wild Wild West, which gets raucous enough to rival just about anything the Vegas Strip might have. The place even had to move the mechanical bull to make room for sports betting.
"We have visions of man caves," Ortzman said. "I want to have technology at the seats where I could order my beverage or place a wager. That's the plan, to have a really automated and integrated experience."
Caesars officials hope to have online sports wagering available by the end of August, which is really the next big leap for New Jersey sports betting. As long as a player has action, it doesn't matter where he or she views the game. But there's nothing like the camaraderie of a sportsbook regardless of whom the money is on.
"Since I've been a little girl," said Hedgepeth, who still despises the Packers for beating Dallas in the 1967 Ice Bowl game. "My daddy was a Cowboys fan. My family would have disowned me if I hadn't [bet Dallas]."