Pa­tri­ots fans flock to Rhode Is­land to bet on Su­per Bowl

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - BY JEN­NIFER MCDER­MOTT

Given their team’s suc­cess, die-hard fans of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots have made Las Ve­gas like a win­ter home dur­ing Su­per Bowl week so they can en­joy a fair-weather party while plac­ing bets on the team’s chances.

Their des­ti­na­tion this time around is a lot closer.

Rhode Is­land was one of six states that le­gal­ized bet­ting on sport­ing events last year af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court al­lowed it, end­ing the ef­fec­tive sports gam­bling mo­nop­oly that Ne­vada had en­joyed for decades. It is the only state in New Eng­land that al­lows sports bet­ting, mak­ing it a fo­cal point for Pa­tri­ots fans from around the North­east.

“If you don’t have to in­vest $1,000 go­ing across the coun­try, you’re not go­ing to,” said Zack Na­tola, a 30-year-old Pa­tri­ots fan from Water­town, Mas­sachusetts.

He has trav­eled to Las Ve­gas three times to bet on the Su­per Bowl. For the game this Sun­day, he is plan­ning to make the short trip south across the state line to the Twin River Casino in Lin­coln, one of two places in Rhode Is­land that of­fers sports bet­ting.

He’s ex­cited about be­ing able to watch his team and place bets without hav­ing to spend the money on a Las Ve­gas trip.

“It makes it a good week­end,” he said.

The states that jumped into sports bet­ting last year and the casi­nos that of­fer it are hop­ing it’s a prof­itable week­end.

In ad­di­tion to Rhode Is­land, Delaware, Mis­sis­sippi, New Jersey, Penn­syl­va­nia and West Vir­ginia le­gal­ized sports bet­ting af­ter the high court’s rul­ing last spring, as did the District of Columbia. Al­though New Mex­ico has not passed a sports bet­ting law, an Amer­i­can In­dian casino run by the Santa Ana Pue­blo started tak­ing bets without the need for ad­di­tional state ap­proval. Law­mak­ers in sev­eral other states have filed bills this year to al­low sports bet­ting.

In Rhode Is­land, the state re­ceives 51 per­cent of the rev­enue from sports bet­ting – the high­est per­cent­age of any state that has le­gal­ized it. Rev­enue from the Su­per Bowl is ex­pected to boost the state’s cof­fers, but the state lot­tery and the casino man­age­ment group aren’t mak-

ing pro­jec­tions on how much.

Gam­blers placed about $13 mil­lion in wa­gers on pro­fes­sional sports in De­cem­ber, the first full month of le­gal­ized sports bet­ting in the state.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar NFL sea­son, casino cus­tomers com­plained about wait­ing an hour or more to place a bet. Since then, the Twin River Casino added bet­ting win­dows, changed the way staff takes breaks and ran pro­mo­tions ask­ing peo­ple to come early to make Su­per Bowl wa­gers, said Craig Scu­los, the casino’s vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager.

He said the casino is ready for a big crowd Sun­day, which he called the “ul­ti­mate in­door tail­gat­ing party.”

“A Su­per Bowl is an im­por­tant event any­way,” he said. “A Pa­tri­ots Su­per Bowl be­comes a mega event in New Eng­land.”

It is ex­actly that for Se­bas­tian Scar­docci, who went to Twin River Casino on Mon­day to place bets on his fa­vorite player, Rob Gronkowski.

Scar­docci, 50, lives in Foxboro, near the home of the Pa­tri­ots’ star tight end and close to the team’s Gil­lette Sta­dium. In one of hun­dreds of bets gam­blers can place on in­di­vid­ual play­ers and out­comes within the Su­per Bowl, he wa­gered that Gronkowski would out­per­form pre­dic­tions.

Scar­docci has trav­eled to Las Ve­gas and placed bets through lo­cal book­ies.

He said he and oth­ers he knows are ex­cited to be able to have bet­ting so close to home, es­pe­cially with their team re­turn­ing to the big game.

“It’s neat to have it nearby,” said Scar­docci, who plans to watch the Su­per Bowl from home. “We haven’t had that op­tion.”

An­other fan, Ty­rone Fos­ter, bet on sports for the first time when he vis­ited Las Ve­gas last year, but the Twin River Casino is just a few min­utes from his home in Cen­tral Falls.

He was there this week to wa­ger $50 on which team will win the coin toss and other in-game events, known among gam­blers as propo­si­tion bets.

“It’s awe­some that Rhode Is­land has it,” said Fos­ter, 27.

“It helps with tourism, too. All the ben­e­fits re­ally go to the state that has sports bet­ting, and I don’t re­ally see much in the way of down­sides.”

Even a down­side in the out­come for New Eng­land fans – a Pa­tri­ots loss – would turn into a win for the state.

That’s be­cause Rhode Is­land casino of­fi­cials say most of the ac­tion has been on New Eng­land so far.

Be­yond Rhode Is­land, about two-thirds of wa­gers and three-fourths of the money bet has backed the Pa­tri­ots, ac­cord­ing to, though that could change over four more days of bet­ting.

The Pa­tri­ots, win­ners of two of the last four Su­per Bowls, are 2 1/2-point fa­vorites against the Los An­ge­les Rams. Los An­ge­les opened as a 1-point fa­vorite when the matchup was set.

“God for­bid the Pa­tri­ots lose on Sun­day, but it would be a wind­fall for the state,” Gerry Au­bin, the lot­tery’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, told state law­mak­ers who vis­ited the Lin­coln casino on Mon­day.

“Wait, easy now!” replied Rep. Wil­liam O’Brien.

Af­ter the meet­ing, O’Brien headed for a bet­ting win­dow and put $100 on the Pa­tri­ots to win.


Rhode Is­land state Rep. Wil­liam O'Brien places a $100 bet on the Pa­tri­ots on Mon­day at Twin River Casino in Lin­coln.

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