A Look Inside The FanDuel Sportsbook At Meadowlands Racetrack On Day 1

FanDuel Sportsbook NJ

FanDuel sports betting is officially live.

Politicians and dignitaries christened the new FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey on Saturday, two months after the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), getting rid of the federal ban on sports wagering outside of Nevada. Lawmakers past and present gathered in East Rutherford to welcome the Garden State’s newest sportsbook and make ceremonial first wagers.

Man of the hour was Jeff Gural, the CEO and owner of Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment. While still hoping for a casino on-site, he welcomes the opportunity to legitimize sports betting.

“This makes something that’s been in the shadows and taking place illegally and now makes it legal,” he said.

After years of political wrangling and legal battles, this morning’s opening felt like another in a string of victory parades. New Jersey’s challenge of a federal law that blocked sports betting in much of the US has allowed to create a legislative framework to open sportsbooks, either at casinos, online or both. The law passed last month allowed books to operate in casinos and at racetrack sites.

The Meadowlands, now in business

While officials celebrated openings in Atlantic City and at Monmouth Park already, this felt different.

The Meadowlands is the closest retail sports betting to America’s largest media and sports market, New York City. Many of those who advocated vehemently for this opportunity represent districts in North Jersey. To bring sports betting to the struggling harness track, while neighboring New York cannot quite decide their path, and being the first to offer sports betting in the same vicinity as an NFL stadium felt pretty good, like a sack on fourth down. And who would stop the legislators from dancing like former Jet Mark Gastineau?

Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak has received a lot of credit for his dogged pursuit of bringing today to fruition. He noted that he waged to keep money from leaving NJ for offshore books or going underground, costing taxpayers money and jobs to his constituents. He pointed to the necessity to keep tracks like Meadowlands vibrant as key to other state endeavors, like the 140,000 acres of horse farms preserved as open space in the densest populated state in the Union. His former colleague, Assemblymember Ralph Caputo (D-Bergen) called Lesniak “the most tenacious, persistent man I know.” 

FanDuel is the name, sports betting is the new game

A newer face at the podium was Matt King, CEO of the newly-formed FanDuel Group, the name for the US arm of European gaming operator Paddy Power Betfair. PPB acquired FanDuel and rolled it into its other business in the US. This new deal allowed the book to open ahead of schedule.

FanDuel used to do daily fantasy sports only, but its pivot to offering sports betting as well is now complete.

“I can think of no better place to open than the Meadowlands,” he said. “The FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands is representative of our commitment to creating a best-in-class experience for sports fans everywhere. The way that people interact with sports is changing. We are on the cusp of something that will be dramatic and will be transformational of how people engage with the teams they love. We’re proud to be on the forefront of that.”

A look at FanDuel Sportsbook

Fans filled the Victory Lounge venue at 11 a.m., greeted with free FanDuel T-shirts, to consider prices and place wagers. While the politicians placed wagers mostly on the New York Giants, New York Yankees, and France in the World Cup (former Gov. Richard Codey backed Croatia because he claimed France was never our biggest ally — not sure if he remembers much history of the American Revolution), fans backed other teams, even the hated (in these parts) Dallas Cowboys.

Using the Victory Lounge seems in tune with the Meadowlands consideration of providing customers the finest experience. Fans can order from a menu of lighter fare with reasonable prices or grab their favorite drink at the expansive bar. King mentioned the lounge will expand to 15 cashiers and 65 TVs once football season starts. The hours of operation will accommodate those seeking action throughout the day and night, opening at 9 a.m. on weekends for football.

FanDuel sports betting options

While the food and drink offerings were plentiful, the betting options varied from what’s available at locations like the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City.

Most games played today had options for bets, including NBA Summer League and even non-Wimbledon tennis. However, while William Hill customers can bet futures like the 2019 NBA champions or who will win the English Premier League, those were not on the board today in East Rutherford.

When state Sen. Paul Sarlo tried to bet the New York Mets to win next Friday’s Subway Series tilt with the Yankees, he was informed the game was not yet available. None of the elected officials could bet the New Jersey Devils because there were no Stanley Cup futures.

State Sen. Theresa Ruiz learned if you want to make a bet for someone else, don’t say that. The acceptable nomenclature is “in honor of,” even if the party isn’t deceased. While you can bet week 1 of the NFL, nothing was available for college football. A FanDuel representative mentioned that the offerings were controlled by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement and required pre-authorization.

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A sportsbook near NYC is a winner?

A short trip from Port Authority in NYC will bring you right to the door of FanDuel Sportsbook (just don’t lose your bus fare for the ride back).

FanDuel has a strong brand recognition from its DFS product and that should help set it apart in what will be a crowded market. It fits the market’s sensibility with easy-to-read monitors, ample service, and a welcoming facility. It’s sharp, straightforward, without being overwhelming.

The biggest problem on Day 1 seemed to be the vigorish — the commission the book keeps — on bets. The industry standard is ten percent, but FanDuel vig was for the most part much higher than that.

That concern aside, FanDuel’s Sportsbook is sitting in an envious spot.

Marco Cerino

About

Marco Cerino is a 2007 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and a 2017 graduate from the Masters program at Temple University. A freelance writer based in South Jersey, he's worked in sports at the minor and major league levels. He now covers the NJ online gambling industry.