France and Atlantic City sportsbooks the big winners on Sunday

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ATLANTIC CITY — A modest, yet spirited crowd showed up to the Borgata for the first major sporting event since sports betting was legalized in New Jersey. Since the World Cup final between France and Croatia started so early, they probably hit church beforehand. France won the game, which was just fine with the bookies. Enough Sunday money kept coming in on Croatia to force oddsmakers to continually adjust the line. The Borgata gets its lines directly from MGM officials in Las Vegas.

At the Borgata, the Croats started the day plus $200 in two-way wagering. They were bet down to +$160. For three-way, they went from +$340 to +$300. And while French bettors celebrated the 4-2 victory over underdog Croatia, some of the Borgata’s horse-racing regulars groused at the intruders invading their space. This is a horse ‘book, and has been for years, which is putting some urgency on expansion for the football season. Mike Woodside, vice president of marketing, said the sports bettor is high on his company’s priority list. “We know we have to dig in and create a new experience before football season,” he said.

The eventual plan is to build something substantial, perhaps along the lines of MGM’s other properties in Vegas, such as the Mirage and Bellagio. But that’s for another day. Croatia’s Luka Modric was named the World Cup’s MVP, France’s Kylian Mbappe was named best youngster, and Nancygail Jones won most outstanding traffic director at the Borgata.

Most of the bettors were novice soccer fans often confused over the nuances of two-way betting vs. three-way betting. Two-way involves the full game, including overtime and possible penalty kicks. Three-way is solely the first 90 minutes. Jones, the race and sportsbook director, parked herself in front of the betting line 45 minutes before the match and made sure players had the correct info before going up to make their wager. The line moved quickly and, surprisingly, all bets were received by the time the match started. “Each bet is a different number, I told them,” Jones said. “You need to watch.”

Mousa Ackall was in town from New York City. He placed the first wager on Sunday, just after the Borgata’s sportsbook opened at 9 a.m. — two hours earlier than usual because of the World Cup’s 11 a.m. start. He had France. The early bird gets the winner. “I think [sports betting is] good for recreational entertainment,” he said, before adding, “but it could be dangerous, as well. But as long as it’s properly regulated, it’s probably going to be an economic boon.”

 

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