With preseason games kicking off in full this weekend, the start of the NFL season is so close, we can almost taste it.
There are, in fact, 11 preseason games on Thursday, and it’s a sure bet that all of the New Jersey sports betting sites — retail and online — will be taking action on them. But where are you going to watch the game? Perhaps at a nearby sportsbook, but which one? There are 10 of them after all.
Eight of those 10 are in Atlantic City. And the AC sportsbooks are prepping for their first full season of gridiron action.
I will be reviewing each of the books layouts, features, and amenities. Today’s focus is the William Hill Sports Book at Ocean Casino Resort.
Initial impressions of William Hill sportsbook at Ocean Casino
Address: 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City 08401
Ocean Casino Resort opened in June 2018, although back then it was called Ocean Resort Casino. It replaced the former Revel that closed in 2014. But because the building itself was newly built, the remodel was quick.
In fact, it’s so new it still has the “new car look and smell” to it. Ocean’s location makes it the last property at the north end of the Boardwalk and just a short walk from the Boardwalk entrance to Hard Rock AC. Everything about this property is new.
Also, as the opening of the casino closely paralleled the timing of the overturn of PASPA, the William Hill sportsbook fits seamlessly and naturally into the flow of the design of the overall casino space. It’s definitely not a “bolt-on” or “retro-fit” that other sportsbooks in NJ seem to be.
William Hill, which often refers to itself as “America’s #1 Sportsbook,” also has the No. 1 position of retail sportsbook branding in New Jersey. It’s locations now number three: Monmouth, Ocean, and Tropicana.
Ocean’s William Hill Sports Book is easy to find from the main escalators. My initial impression of walking in the sportsbook is simply “WOW!” The space is large, with almost 360 degrees of TV and information screens. There is also a large sports-themed bar adjacent to one of the entry spaces.
In addition to the array of video/information available, there’s also a multitude of seating options available with a mix of sofas, chairs, and bar tables.
The entire space is self-contained without feeling confined, and there is no doubt you that you get that “big-time sportsbook feel” that one might experience on the Las Vegas strip.
In terms of visiting Ocean Casino, as with all AC hotels, there is valet parking and self-park options. The self-park option, which most of the public would consider being the “cheaper” parking alternative, costs $10 for non-hotel guests/or guests without a “loyalty” card on the weekend ($5 on weekdays).
The sportsbook has a “theatre in the round” design to it. You’ll be compelled to try out the “pano” feature on your camera to try and take it all in.
Each side of the book allows easy access back to the casino on one side and the sports bar/casino on the other side. There is a midway area that serves as a walkway to those crossing over to either the casino or to the bar.
The sports bar is visually attention-grabbing and, if it was purely a stand-alone location, would be a highlight in its own right. The 15 seats in the rectangular bar layout all feature a video gaming terminal, with a bank of TV’s visible from any seat. The bar is framed by scrolling odds and an information screen on the ceiling.
Within the sportsbook, there’s seating for 130+ with plenty of open spaces to stand and watch the games. Every position in the sportsbook affords easy access to view the multitude of HD TV screens and information boards within the space.
Amenities at the Ocean Casino sportsbook
There are eight live teller windows all located on one end of the sportsbook. They are well laid-out with ample room between each to avoid a feeling of overcrowding.
RATING: 5 stars
William Hill does a lot of things well as part of Ocean’s design, but they do fall short here with only two self-serve kiosks available.
Similar to what I observed at the William Hill Monmouth Park sportsbook, there’s a glaring shortage of self-betting kiosks on-site. Especially in comparison to the relative size of the space.
RATING: 1 star
Minimum Sportsbook Bet Amount
The minimum wager amount at William Hill is $2. This is a positive, especially for the smaller player as the majority of NJ retail books have a $5 minimum for all bets.
The William Hill app would be the better option for those looking to place bet amounts below the $2 minimum.
RATING: 5 stars
As mentioned, there are HD TV screens aplenty at Ocean Casino sportsbook. While there are some smaller “fixed” dimension TV screens, the majority of the TV screen layout is in a “video wall” format where the size of the screens can be customized based on the current action.
It’s an impressive and visually appealing feature that really makes a dynamic impact. I can’t say enough about how well this sportsbook has been designed and furnished. Top-of-the-line stuff.
RATING: 5 stars
In such a large oval space, it makes sense that there is ample seating (130+) plus the space afforded for standing sports bettors.
But it’s not just the number of seats but also the quality and options, ranging from multi-person sofas to plush “theatre style” leather seats to bar table/chair options.
There is something cool and comfortable for everyone at William Hill sportsbook. If you’re a New York Jets fan, you’ll need to be there when the sportsbook doors open at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8 to get the best seating option for the 1 p.m. season opener vs the Buffalo Bills.
It should be noted that on days with big sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, the 7,500-square-foot sportsbook can become very crowded. So on those days, come early to get your seat.
RATING: 5 stars
The William Hill Sports Book personnel on-site the day of my visit described all of the seating as “first-come, first-serve,” with no available pre-reserved seating options.
But starting during football season, the Skybox Suites at William Hill sportsbook are available for reservations, with seating for up to 10 guests. You can learn more about this option on the casino’s website. We were unable to review this section of the sportsbook.
The sports bar adjacent to the book is the closest oasis for drinks while watching a football game.
There is some limited in-seat waiter service from the bar during busier times, but otherwise, one needs to belly up to the bar to place an order. Good, but not great. This is currently a “drinks-only” bar.
It should be noted that Ocean AC’s website does tease the “food menu coming for the fall” at the sportsbook. For now, any food needs to be ordered and picked up from a restaurant located throughout the casino or the casino food court.
The options include Wahlburgers, Starbucks, Pit Boss BBQ, Beer & Fish Fry, and Rocco’s Italian Kitchen & Market. All of the food purchased is allowed to be brought back into the sportsbook.
RATING: 3.5 stars
Staffing /Customer Service Support
While my visit was during a “non-peak” time on the weekend, the William Hill sportsbook was staffed with tellers and supervisors.
The staff was engaging and conversational about the upcoming day’s sporting events. The book also clearly posts its hours of operation, opening at 10 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday/Sunday.
The sportsbook staff also has fully stocked the racks of daily and future sheets for the day’s upcoming action.
RATING: 5.0 stars
Parking and accessibility
As mentioned earlier, self-parking at Ocean Casino is $5 weekdays and $10 weekends.
While these fees mean less money to play at the sportsbook or casino, Ocean’s fees are at the low end of Atlantic City parking fees. The casino and sportsbook are easily accessible from the self-parking garage.
RATING: 3.5 stars
As this is Atlantic City, there’s a bounty of food, drink and casino gaming options at Ocean Casino and nearby.
The only slight negative is Ocean’s location; it’s a bit of an outlier from the heart of the boardwalk and casino traffic. This isn’t always a bad thing and you also get the added bonus of some spectacular views of the Atlantic from various parts of the casino.
RATING: 4.5 stars
My Ocean William Hill football bet
As part of every sportsbook visit, I am placing a football wager for the upcoming 2019 season. The NFL futures wagers market is hot right now, and it’s a great time to invest before the odds/totals begin to fluctuate once the season gets underway.
Below is my future wager on the Eagles to go OVER 10 wins this season, boldly staking $2 to win $1.90:
Overall score: 4.2 stars
The William Hill Sports Book at Ocean Casino is truly a “real and spectacular” state-of-the-art facility. Simply put, it’s a very cool spot and a “must visit” for any sports bettor heading to Atlantic City.
There are still some easily-remedied areas for improvement such as more self-service kiosks as well as dedicated bar wait staff service in the book. William Hill/Ocean will be adding a food menu to the book coming this fall, which will be a huge plus for those spending their afternoons and evenings watching all those college football and NFL games.