BETMAPS™ Inaugural Sports Bet (News Post)… the Post That Almost Didn’t Happen

This was supposed to be a story about the first legal sports bet in various states. Who made the bet? Where did they make the bet? What did they bet on? Did they win?

It is still that story. 

Before getting into it, let us quickly explain how we got here. About two weeks ago, August 18th, we had the idea of doing a story on inaugural sports bets to go with our U.S. launch. That day we contacted a writer who would write it for us. A few days later that writer said the story was too hard to do. We were way too busy with launch to focus on a 1000-word post. So, the story was shelved. Then a few days ago we were contacted by an aspiring writer. We offered the story to them at a little higher price. As of writing this, we haven’t heard back. So here we are. Bringing you this important news post. The post that almost didn’t happen. 

UPDATE: Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort GM Wayne Smith has won his 5 dollar bet on the Cowboys.

Sports betting as we know it today has been legal in Nevada since at least 1949. Seventy years later we’ve had 18 additional states plus D.C. legalize sports betting in the last year alone. A total of 13 states are now actively taking bets. With this excitement, the inaugural sports bet has become a phenomenon. While bringing politicians and athletes out of the woodwork, it’s also bringing sports betting out of the shadows. This is the story of those bets. 

Delaware - Tuesday June 5th, 2018 at 1:30.01PM EDT

The very first legal sports bet outside of Nevada was placed by a man named Tom Barton. He drove down to Delaware Park from Long Island to bet $20 on the New York Yankees to win the World Series at 5:1 odds. Why did he do this? Because, being from Long Island, he is probably a Yankees fan. That is our guess. 

He lost the bet, but not the race. The inaugural bet was supposed to be placed by Glen Macnow, a sports radio personality. But he took too long. His ticket was stamped at 1:30.07.

New Jersey – June 14th, 2018

The inaugural bet at the second state outside Nevada was placed by New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, at Monmouth Park. He bet $20 on Germany to win the World Cup. Why? Because he was a former ambassador to Germany and a huge soccer fan. He lost. This loss had to be bittersweet. New Jersey’s legal battle against the federal sports betting ban, which began with Governor Chris Christie, is credited with the eventual Supreme Court overturn of the ban. So, he may have lost the bet but he won the war. 

Mississippi – August 2nd, 2018

Who: Willis McGahee, former NFL Pro Bowler and Miami Hurricanes running back, was one of seven to place inaugural bets
What: Cleveland Browns to go over 5.5 wins (won) and Buffalo Bills to go over 6 wins (lost) that season
Where: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
Why: McGahee started his professional career with the Bills and finished with the Browns

West Virginia – August 30th, 2018

Who: State Delegate Jason Barrett
What: $50 on West Virginia Mountaineers to win the football national championship (lost) 
Where: Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races®
Why: This longshot bet was placed by a hometown fan and politician. Go big or go home, right?

New Mexico – October 16th, 2018

Who: Grandfather of @MMargolias (per Twitter)
What: $30 on the Houston Astros to beat the Boston Red Sox (lost, but got a free buffet!)
Where: Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel
Why: Unknown, but they were playing that day. Game 3 of the ALCS.

Pennsylvania – November 15th, 2018

Who: Kenneth Sweeney of Annville, PA
What: $20 on the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl (lost)
Where: Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course®
Why: Hollywood Casino invited patrons to a “test day” on November 15th. Kenneth was luckily able to make the inaugural bet. 

Rhode Island – November 26th, 2018

Who: RI state lawmakers Dominick Ruggerio and Nicholas Mattiello, along with Twin Rivers Casino Hotel chairman John Taylor. 
What: Ruggerio bet Houston Texans over the Tennessee Titans (won).  Mattiello and Taylor took the Boston Celtics over the New Orleans Pelicans (won) 
Where: Twin Rivers Casino Hotel
Why: They all bet on games that were happening that evening. Two of the 3 bet on the nearby Celtics. They all donated their winnings to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Cranston Animal Shelter, and American Red Cross of RI. 

Arkansas – July 1st, 2019

Fast forward a year, state #9 comes online. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort GM Wayne Smith bet 5 bucks on the Cowboys to cover 7.5 points against the Giants on the September 8th season opener. Why did he bet on the Cowboys? We don’t know. Maybe if you know him you can ask him, then let us know. 

New York – July 16th, 2019

A few weeks later, Rivers Casino® Sportsbook took the first legal sports bet in New York State. Three men (all politicians), state assemblyman Gary Pretlow, state senator Joseph Addabbo Jr, and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy were supposed to make simultaneous bets. Or so McCarthy and Addabbo Jr thought. Pretlow apparently did not get that memo, rushing in a $20 bet on the Seattle Mariners over the Oakland A’s instead of making a bet on the home team (New York Yankees). Why did he do this? 

“Only because the Yankees weren’t up yet, they didn’t have a pitcher named,” he told The Daily Gazette afterward. “And I had to get the first bet in — this is the first legal bet in the state of New York. They wanted to do it simultaneously with the [mayor] and the senator. I said, ‘That ain’t happening.’ So while they were talking, I put my money in, and I got the first bet.”

Pretlow lost. 

Iowa – August 15th, 2019

Who: State Senator Jack Whitver
What: Iowa State Cyclones over the Iowa Hawkeyes in football (September 14th, 2019)
Where: William Hill Sportsbook at Prairie Meadows 
Why: Whitver played four seasons for the Cyclones in the early 2000s.

Oregon – August 27th, 2019

Who: Former Dallas Cowboy Ed “Too Tall” Jones
What: $5 on the Cowboys to Win the Super Bowl
Where: Chinook Winds Casino Resort
Why: After 15 seasons with the Cowboys, 3 Pro Bowls, and 1 championship (XXI), how could he not bet on his team?

Indiana – September 1st, 2019

During the first week of the NFL’s 100th season, we heard a lot about the Ameristar® Casino East Chicago grand opening where Mike Ditka placed a $100 bet on the Chicago Bears to win the Big Game (good luck) and Devin Hester bet $200 on the Bears to win the season opener against the Green Bay Packers (lost). But the first bet was actually placed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino®. Holcomb made the following 3 bets:

  • $10 on the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl (even after Andrew Luck’s departure)
  • $10 on the Indiana Pacers to win the NBA championship.
  • $10 on the WNBA’s Indiana Fever over the Connecticut Sun on September 8th, 2019. 

If you didn’t have a reason to root for Holcomb and these Indiana teams before, Holcomb will donate any winnings to the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, a nonprofit organization that places service dogs with people who have disabilities. 

So, there you have it. A rundown of inaugural bets at each of the 12 states to recently go live—70 years after Nevada showed us how it’s done. 

Additionally, this is the inaugural news post from BETMAPS, the first sports betting social directory, following our September 4th launch. We look forward to bringing you info on the other 37 states as they go live. 

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