New Jersey takes to first ever legal Super Bowl bets

US states can now legalise, regulate and tax sports betting, with New Jersey leading the charge

East Rutherford, New Jersey

A ROAR went up inside the FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey on Sunday (Monday morning, Singapore time), but play at the Super Bowl in Atlanta had not even started.

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, punters outside Nevada were able to place legal wagers on the National Football League's (NFL) championship game without having to use bookies or offshore websites.

A US Supreme Court ruling in May overturned a 1992 federal ban on sports betting outside Nevada. That allowed states to legalise, 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 2018, after just six months in operation, they had handled about US$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," she 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.

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

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 colourful 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.

Ms 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."

The 13-3 scoreline was the lowest scoring NFL championship game in history. The total of 16 points scored in the game was the lowest ever in the Super Bowl, surpassing Miami's 14-7 win over Washington back in 1973.

It was a bitter end to the season for Rams coach Sean McVay, who at 33 would have been the youngest winner of the Super Bowl.

Instead, Mr McVay was outfoxed by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose defensive gameplan choked the life out of the Rams, the second most potent offence in the NFL this season who had averaged more than 30 points a game.

Mr Belichick, 66, became the oldest head coach to win the Super Bowl. REUTERS, AFP

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