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US Sports Betting Commuters

Lenny Sciascia ponders as he looks at betting lines for the day's sporting events before placing his bet in a parking lot just off the Bayonne Bridge, which divides New York and New Jersey. Sciascia, who lives in Staten Island, commutes regularly to place his bets from New Jersey, where online betting is legal. 

The Super Bowl is set, and if you're a fan of the Los Angeles Rams (like my old pal Dave Coleman has been since the mid-'70s) or have an interest in the New England Patriots (My Auburn High Class of 1985 classmate Bob Socci will be calling the play-by-play), there's a reason why you're going to be watching.

Some people will watch because it's the Super Bowl and a reason to have a party. Some will watch for the commercials (which most will be bad). And then there will be a large group that only cares what the score is at the end of each quarter.

It would be naive not to admit that the Super Bowl is sports gambling's biggest day. Whether your Super Bowl party has a board of there's a pool at work, people love to watch the game with a "financial" interest.

Of course I was foolish to think that we would be able to place legal wagers on the Super Bowl in New York. It was last May when the Supreme Court ruled that states can decide if they want sports gambling, so with eight months elapsed, you would figure New York would have it by now.

Nope.

There won't be any legal wagering on the over/under, the point spread, the length of the national anthem, prop bets, the money line or anything else.

The state is in the process of legalizing sports wagering, but it will be too late for the Super Bowl.

If you don't have an underground bookie or use an offshore online gambling website, the only way you can legally bet on the game is to go to New Jersey. The Garden State is flourishing since it became the first state to legalize sports betting after the Supreme Court ruling. Since June, scores of New Yorkers, the vast majority from the NYC area, have been crossing the border to place bets. Since football season started last fall, gamblers in New Jersey can place bets on their cellphones. There are numerous New Yorkers who drive into New Jersey, bet by phone and drive right back without ever leaving their cars.

As a result, New Jersey is taking in millions of dollars in gambling revenue while New York is still getting zilch. The upstate casinos, like del Lago and Turning Stone, all have deals with sports books but can't do anything until the state sets rules.

Sad to say, but New York wasted a great chance for its residents' money to go into its coffers, not New Jersey's. You won't be able to bet on the Super Bowl, and probably not the Final Four, but maybe the NBA playoffs.

Then, when New York does legalize sports betting, you will have to go to the casino. Unlike New Jersey, you won't be able to use your phone. The state constitution doesn't allow it and even if it can be changed, it will take at least two to three years.

How about OTB, like our location on the Arterial? No, OTB won't be allowed to take sports bets, which of course makes sense since you can already, you know, bet on a horse race there.

I understand the state's reasons for keeping sports gambling in the upstate casinos, they aren't doing well because our region is over-saturated with them between Turning Stone, del Lago, Tioga Downs and the Seneca casino in Niagara Falls. They will get a boost, but it won't be very big. The casinos would do better if they could offer online betting through a phone app. No offense meant to the casinos, but I'd rather place my bets from the comforts of my home than drive 20 minutes to an hour to do it.

New York just can't seem to get it. You make it as easy as possible for gamblers to bet, this does the opposite. Eight months after it could, New York still doesn't offer legal sports gambling, missing out on football season. When it is legal, it will still be inferior to New Jersey, close to where the bulk of New York's population lives.

The Super Bowl could be an excellent game. The Pats are favored by 2.5. It would be nice to be able to grab my phone and legally wager on it.

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Sciria, The Citizen's assistant news editor, can be reached at chris.sciria@lee.net or on Twitter @csciria

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