Sports betting begins at the Meadowlands

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MEADOWLANDS -

Crowds were flocking to the Meadowlands Saturday as it became the first place in northern New Jersey to officially offer sports betting.

Doors opened around 11 a.m. and dozens of people were there to get in on the action. Harness racing was expected to start later in the evening.

The ceremonial first bet was placed by longtime politician Ray Lesniak, who was a catalyst for sports betting.

Lawmakers in New York and Connecticut have taken no action on sports betting since a Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for it earlier this year, and New Jersey officials are hoping to attract bettors from those states.

Since betting began a few weeks ago, some $16 million has been bet, but officials expect that number to jump once the NFL season starts. The league has fought sports betting for years, but officials hope to entice the NFL to work together by using the fan experience as a driver.

It's especially important for the Meadowlands, which stands in the shadow of MetLife Stadium. Several changes will be made there before the season begins -- there are plans to add more TVs and more tellers, because sports betting is expected to ramp up once the season begins.

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