ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — New Jersey's rapidly growing sports betting market is extending its reach into a professional hockey arena, even as it adds a seventh Atlantic City casino to the fold.
Bookmaker William Hill US said it plans to open a sports lounge Thursday night at Newark's Prudential Center, where the NHL's New Jersey Devils play.
The viewing center will feature large video screens and constantly updated odds on sporting events in case fans with mobile betting apps on their phones want to wager. But it can't accept in-person cash bets; those are restricted to New Jersey casinos and racetracks.
William Hill and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment signed a multi-year partnership deal to give the bookmaker a physical presence at the arena, as well as including it in the team's radio and digital broadcasts on the Devils Hockey Network, on Prudential Center's exterior marquee LED billboard, and across the Devils' digital and social media channels.
During Devils games, updated league-wide odds will be displayed on Prudential Center's 9,584-square-foot, four-story-tall scoreboard.
''Five years ago, we placed a bet on New Jersey when we invested in opening a sports bar at Monmouth Park without knowing when sports betting would be legalized,'' said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. ''Today, we are proud to continue to double down on that commitment by partnering with the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center.''
In addition to operating the sports book at Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport, William Hill also does so at Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casino, and as of Thursday morning, the Tropicana casino as well.
Victor Groynom, of Atlantic City, placed the first bet there, plunking down $20 on the Los Angeles Lakers to win their next basketball game.
''But I'm not going to cash it in, even if it wins,'' he said. ''I'm framing it.''
''My kind of customer,'' quipped Steve Callender, the Tropicana's general manager.
Groynom has eagerly embraced sports betting since it was first offered in New Jersey in June. He estimates he was up several thousand dollars, largely from successful baseball bets, and is currently about $500 in the black.
The development leaves the Hard Rock and Caesars as the only Atlantic City casinos not to offer sports betting, though Caesars is served by the sports book at its adjacent casino property, Bally's. Hard Rock has expressed interest in offering sports betting but has not yet gotten approval to do so in New Jersey.
Sports betting is off to a fast start in New Jersey, with over $336 million in bets placed here so far.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May clearing the way for all 50 states to offer sports betting if they so choose.