ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Football fans had their jerseys on and their wallets open as pro football season arrived in places where sports betting is newly legal.
New Jersey won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in May that clears the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting if they choose.
There was an hourlong wait in line to place bets at Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casino as kickoff approached Sunday.
Chris Matthews of Clementon, New Jersey, put $50 each on the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, reasoning that all three have strong defenses. Their defense was good last year, even though they didn't win a game, and they were on TV this preseason, and I think that has them fired up," he said, referring to the HBO football themed series "Hard Knocks" that featured the Browns.
"The Patriots are angry they lost the Super Bowl last year, so they'll come out strong today, and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers back this year after being hurt last year."
Robert Stovall of Rahway, New Jersey, put $100 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Clad in a throwback Keyshawn Johnson jersey, he rattled off statistics and predictions for almost the entire Bucs roster in rationalizing a $100 bet on them to win despite being 10-point underdogs.
Phil Henderson of Mahwah, New Jersey, put $500 on the other side of that game, picking the New Orleans Saints to win. It was his first legal bet on football, and he said he likes doing so with a regulated casino better than with a bookie, whose offer of credit can easily get gamblers in over their heads.
"The money's all up front here; you know what you're betting and you're not running an account or a tab, losing money you don't have," he said.
Other states where sports betting is currently being offered include Nevada, Delaware, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
Bruce Deifik owns the Ocean Resort Casino, and was encouraged to see how full the new sports book was on Sunday. He said the casino is already seeing a ripple effect from people who come primarily to bet on football, but then stay for lunch or dinner and drinks, go to the spa or play in a golf simulator.
"In terms of bringing people into contact with other amenities — playing in the casino, food and beverage, maybe getting a hotel room and staying over, this is a big deal," he said.
Sports betting took in $40.6 million in wagers in New Jersey in July, the first full month it was legal.
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