Now that mobile sports betting is available anywhere in the state of New York, is traveling to the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey for the in-person experience still a popular activity?
For Memorial Day evening, since the FanDuel Sportsbook is located at the North American harness racing mecca, we’ve decided to frame the potential customer vibe as a match race of sorts.
“Rowdy Crowd” was considered, given that the New York Rangers were playing Game 7 of their NHL Eastern Conference semifinals series game at the Carolina Hurricanes (they won). Plus the red-hot New York Mets, fresh off a series sweep (their first of the season) over the downward-spiraling Philadelphia Phillies, were opening a three-game series against the hapless Washington Nationals (the Mets also won).
But fellow competitor “It’s a Morgue” also was a horse to consider, given not only that it was the end of a long holiday weekend evening but also that New York-based fans can now wager from their homes.
While the majority of New Jersey sports betting revenue — through April, $122.6 million out of $207.8 million — is listed by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement as being “Meadowlands Racetrack,” roughly 90% of that can be attributed to its mobile sports betting partners FanDuel, PointsBet, and the SuperBook.
So would the brick-and-mortar version come up big on a holiday evening with two New York teams in action?
A visit to the East Rutherford site revealed the winner — and it wasn’t close.
Where is everybody?
In an abundance of caution, an arrival one hour before the Rangers and Mets games revealed no line at the sportsbook, no bartender, and no upper-level option for additional seating.
Only two young patrons gathered at the sportsbook, in fact, so we asked them where all the Rangers fans were. One pointed to the other, clad in a Yankees hat (the Yankees, for some reason, were off on Memorial Day) — and he promised a strong Rangers fan presence surely would arrive just in time before the first puck was dropped.
A wander through the grandstand revealed the usual simulcasting horse racing betting crowd of perhaps 200 — ethnically diverse, as would be expected in a state such as New Jersey. But gender diversity? Not so much, as only a half-dozen or so women were spotted across the nine-year-old facility.
Some curiosities soon arose.
No hot dogs on the concession menu at a racetrack? Really? It turns out they were available; you just had to ask.
Also, the main ATM — the one not just doling out $100 bills — was out of service. But another option worked fine, if one discounts the $3.95 “convenience fee” and the “Welcome to the New Meadolands” typo on the main screen.
The warning that only drinking customers could partake of the 15 main sportsbook barstool seats rang hollow, given that no bartender appeared even as game time loomed.
Just after 8 p.m., only a half-dozen stragglers had assembled at the sportsbook — handing It’s A Morgue a victory by double-digit lengths. None of the 30 or so tables in the sportsbook were occupied, either.
Brief inquiries of a number of such stragglers, as well as a few under-challenged employees, revealed some details.
Opinions were that, yes, the end of Memorial Day weekend played a key role. But the sportsbook crowd for Sunday night’s Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals event was said to be enthusiastic. “The NBA crowds are strong — a lot of high-fiving, almost like a family atmosphere,” one observer said.
The NFL is king at this sportsbook, of course — “the crowd is crazy,” said one person. But there was agreement that NBA games, in spite of the struggles of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, could reasonably compare.
Major League Baseball, the NHL, and even “major” golf tournaments all are hit-and-miss sports for consumer enthusiasm, NY Online Gambling was told.
The ESPN broadcast of the Rangers game revealed a large crowd had gathered at Central Park in Manhattan, and no doubt many sports bars in the tri-state area were packed with fans (including bettors who could wager pre-game or in-game on their phones).
So even though the FanDuel Sportsbook is located in the midst of countless Rangers fans — and is not even a dozen miles west of the Rangers’ Madison Square Garden home ice — this was not the place to be for this Game 7.
NY Online Gambling will venture back on a more suitable mid-summer evening to try to check in on a possibly livelier — or even existing — FanDuel Sportsbook crowd.
Lead photo: James Guillory/USA TODAY