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You bettor believe it: Delaware is open for sports betting

It took one second after the window opened for the first sports bet to be taken. Same guy bet a thousand bucks less than a minute later.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Delaware became the first state outside Nevada to have single-game sports betting.
At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Delaware became the first state outside Nevada to have single-game sports betting. Read moreLeslie Barbaro / For the Inquirer

STANTON, Del. — At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, sports betting in Delaware opened. The First State is the first state in the nation outside of Nevada to legally accept bets, and it took literally one second for the first wager to be recorded.

The scene at Delaware Park on Tuesday is routine in Vegas, but here on the East Coast, it was momentous. The rush to the windows was coupled with a hint of confusion. Baseball money lines, especially, befuddled a few of the patrons.

But not Marvin Bell of Wilmington.

"Gotta go with Scherzer," he said an hour before the windows opened. "I play the run line with Scherzer all the time."

Translation: He was betting on the Washington Nationals because ace Max Scherzer was pitching. Bell had to put up $130 to win $50. But he played the run line, where the Nationals were laying 1.5 runs. Those odds were a little more palatable at $65 to win $50, but Washington had to win by at least two runs.

"This is big for Delaware," said Bell, who now expects to visit Delaware Park more frequently than his two to three times per year. "[Sports betting] keeps you interested in all the games, instead of just maybe your team."

Sports radio personality Glen Macnow, a frequent visitor to Delaware Park, placed the ceremonial first bet when he put $10 on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl at 9-2 odds. Macnow's wager actually was printed six seconds after the first play: Tom Barton has $20 on the Yankees to win the World Series on a ticket that was stamped 13:30.01.

But Barton, a professional sports gambler dressed in a light gray suit, didn't come all the way from Long Island, N.Y., to put down a measly 20 bucks. He backed it up with a $1,000 wager on the Yankees. Sure, this is fun, but there's an extremely serious element to all this.

"This is how I feed my family. This is not a game for me," said Barton, whose only previous legal option was to fly out to Vegas. "This is real sports betting and real sports investing."

His advice to novice gamblers was simply to not bet more than you can afford to lose: "It is sports, after all."

>>READ MORE: Why haven't Pennsylvania casinos filed for permissions to accept sports bets yet?

The lines that formed before 1:30 had dissipated within an hour. Other than baseball, which was still five hours away, there were no live games Tuesday. There will be stronger days, especially when football season arrives. But track president Bill Fasy pointed out there are possibilities for his DelPark even in the next several weeks.

"We have a lot of momentum right now, so we'll see what happens," Fasy said. "To have the chance to grab some specific market share from people that don't normally come here. For the World Cup, I have [heard from] all ethnic groups who want to bet who never come here."

According to Delaware's finance department, the three state racetracks will keep 40 percent of sports-betting revenue. Fifty percent goes to the state, 10 percent go to supplement horse-racing purses.

"I have tennis fans; Wimbledon is at the beginning of July," Fasy continued. "I have college people … that are asking about the College World Series on Father's Day weekend. And you have the U.S. Open that weekend … "

You get the idea.

Delaware Park's sports book will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., but there's flexibility to stay open later when warranted — such as Wednesday's NBA Finals game, which starts at 9 p.m. Minimum straight-up sports bets are $5 and parlays start at $2.

An important note for Vegas veterans: Unlike Nevada, Delaware is not allowed to give out complimentary drink tickets. Not for sports betting, not for the ponies. Doesn't matter the wager. And there's no betting on state schools come college season.

One thing that surely will emulate Vegas will start with the bettors who had money on Tuesday's 7 p.m. baseball games. By 10 p.m., some will be cashing, but many will be tearing up losing tickets.

"I'm here to bet the horses," said retired handicapper Frank Richart, 73, of Boothwyn, Pa., "And to be part of history."

PMN colleague Andrew Albert contributed to this report.