February 4, 2019 / 1:52 AM / 13 days ago

Smiles, grimaces in New Jersey with first-ever legal Super Bowl bets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Reuters) - A roar went up inside the FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey on Sunday, but play in the Super Bowl had not even started.

Silquia Patel, (R), 29, celebrates after making her bets at the FANDUEL sportsbook during the Super Bowl LIII in East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S., February 3, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

It was just the coin toss to determine which team receives the ball first - the Los Angeles Rams won when the coin landed “tails” up - and those in the crowd who lost a few dollars groaned and grimaced.

Even so, fans at the establishment who have always wanted to bet legally may have felt they already won.

This year, for the first time ever, Americans outside Nevada are able to place legal wagers on the National Football League’s championship game without having to use bookies or offshore websites.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May overturned a 1992 federal ban on sports betting outside Nevada. That allowed states to legalize, regulate and tax sports betting.

New Jersey had led the charge, and legal sportsbooks in the state got up and running quickly. By the end of December, after just six months in operation, they had handled about $1.25 billion of sports wagers.

It could not have come soon enough for Silquia Patel, 29, who lives in nearby Belleville, New Jersey.

“I’m excited to be able to do it legally, and here, around all the energy,” Patel said.

She sat around a dining table with her mother, father and two cousins inside FanDuel’s Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack near New York City.

FanDuel Group is owned by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair PLC.

In the end, it lost - and its customers won - about $5 million on the game with the New England Patriots’ unsurprising victory.

Overall, the sportsbook has more than 40 tellers to take bets, at least nine enormous television screens in the main area and seemingly as many staffers and security guards as guests.

It was not packed - many placed bets earlier and left - but the crowd, which was mostly men, still had plenty of energy and colorful language to spare.

Similar scenes were likely playing out in the other states where sports betting is now legally operating: Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and one tribal casino in New Mexico.

Patel had backed the Rams, “because I’m tired of seeing Tom Brady win,” she said of the New England Patriots’ quarterback, who now has six Super Bowl wins to his name, the most of any quarterback in NFL history.

She made up for that loss, however, with her winning bet that the Patriots would score the first field goal.

Mike Yang, 45, had money on New England. In the past, he used a bookie, but he prefers legal betting because it is safer and winners can cash out at the counter as soon as the game ends.

“Before, it was more like hard-core gambling,” he said. “Now it’s just a fun thing for me.”

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Peter Cooney, Robert Birsel

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