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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Super Bowl LIII week historic for sports betting

When the numbers are in for this SB53, it will become a milestone in the evolution of American sports betting.

People, left, talk to tellers while placing bets

People, left, talk to tellers while placing bets at the Meadowlands Racetrack on July 14, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

Rarely in human history has “physically present in New Jersey” been used as an appealing come-on, for any purpose. But here we are.

Super Bowl LIII week has been unlike any before in that it is the first since the Supreme Court opened the door to widespread legalized sports gambling, and thus the first to feature a guilt-free deluge of gambling ads.

Because New Jersey already has taken the leap and New York still is working on it, such ads always include a caveat about placing your bets only in the Garden State.

You might recall a similar moment early in the 2015 NFL season when DraftKings and FanDuel blanketed radio and television with appeals to young males to lose their money on their fantasy sites.

But that was back when leagues and teams still were making the laughable case that fantasy gambling is not actually gambling because it involves skill, or some such nonsense.

Those days are over now, given the Supreme Court ruling that gave states the right to do as they wish, thus bringing the United States more in line with the grownup approach to this subject long exhibited in Europe.

Remember, the battles leading up to the Supreme Court decision last May never were really about the integrity of games. They were about how the profits from expanded sports betting would be divvied up.

This all became inevitable five years ago, when NBA commissioner Adam Silver took the lead, recognizing that betting is good for fan engagement, and that regulated betting is good for both dollars and sense.

Monmouth Park’s sports book opened in June. Meadowlands Racetrack’s opened in July. Online betting began in August, within the confines of New Jersey cyberspace.

Predictably, money has been rolling in at a steady clip and soon will leave Las Vegas in the desert dust. When the numbers are in for this SB53, it will become a milestone in the evolution of American sports betting.

This still is evolving, though. CBS has a policy against its announcers talking about gambling on the air, in part on the theory that it still is illegal in most states.

But by this time next year, with New York expected to be on board, the notion of avoiding betting talk will be an anachronism.

States and gambling outfits by all means should do everything possible to protect potential problem gamblers, just as they should those who might misuse the products long promoted in beer commercials.

For the rest of us, it’s all just part of the fun, as long as you ... Let’s say it together: Bet with your head, not over it.

The biggest winners this week are the media outlets raking in dough from betting operations eager to tap into Super Bowl excitement.

WFAN hosts must have been lining up in recent weeks to record ads promoting gambling opportunities, which now are playing on a near-constant loop.

My inbox, customarily flooded with all manner of public relations pitches during Super Bowl week, this year has been overtaken with gambling-related emails.

Allow me to summarize: Most Americans favor legalized sports betting. Brent Musburger has strong opinions on the subject. There are many interesting prop bets available. The Super Bowl is a big event.

So, there you have it. We have crossed the betting Rubicon, this week more than ever before. There is no turning back.

For now, though ... See you in Jersey!

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