DOVER, Del. (AP) — Bradley Saucier and Joshua Merrill made the trip from Maine to watch this weekend's NASCAR races at Dover. They had bags full of NASCAR merchandise, wore hats and shirts supporting their favorite drivers and came prepared to spend on their new favorite accessory: betting slips.
All bets were on at Dover International Speedway on Saturday when it opened its on-site kiosk and became the only track that allowed sports gambling on its property.
"I'm going to probably put the whole house on Kyle Larson straight to win," Saucier said.
Larson, who is winless this season, has 13-2 odds to win Sunday's Cup race at Dover. Fans and bettors can place a few bucks on more than just the winner of the race. Prop bets were offered on everything from the number of drivers on the lead lap at the finish (12½) to most laps led by any driver (188½) to total cautions (7½) over the 400-mile race.
"It definitely makes it feel like I have part of the race," Saucier said. "I'm more part of it when I have a horse in the race."
With the 46-foot tall Miles the Monster monument looming in the background, bets were placed on racing, college football and other sports inside an ordinary white tent that some hope can rejuvenate interest in NASCAR.
The kiosk opened at 9 a.m. and a modest line formed with fans, some who had questions about the NASCAR prop bets; specifically, did the stage cautions count toward the total number of cautions? They do not — just crash and debris cautions.
John Hensley, general manager and senior director of horse racing and sports betting at Dover Downs, said more prop bets were offered for Sunday than the average race.
"Even more than they provide when they're at Las Vegas Motor Speedway," he said.
NASCAR's second-tier Xfinity Series race on Saturday also was open for action.
"I have money on Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier," Saucier said.
Hensley said that through four hours of gambling, the action had been split 50-50 on bettors picking the straight-up race winner vs. the variety of prop bets. Wagers are capped at $1,000 bets on race winners and $500 on props.
The betting lines supplied by William Hill are pulled from the board during practice and qualifying.
"The risk management team will be watching who's practicing well, who's not," Hensley said.
Kasey Kahne was listed at 500-1 to win Sunday's race on the opening lines but was pulled from the board when he withdrew from the race because of illness.
Delaware launched full-scale sports betting in June, barely three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to implement wagering schemes.
The News Journal of Wilmington reported this week that NASCAR wagering has raked in just $60,000 since June 5 — less than 0.2 percent of the total $39.77 million wagered on all sports so far in the state.
"The four major sports do the bulk of the interest," Hensley said. "Just in early action this week, we've done a good percentage of that $60,000 already this week with the event being here and with a little bit of push from what it's had."
NASCAR declined to comment Saturday on legalized sports gambling and referred to a statement from earlier this year that said it will "continue to monitor what the (Supreme Court) ruling will mean for individual states and our sport."
NASCAR does not prohibit its drivers or team members from betting on the race. "With the risk manager setting limits, the risk and return of trying to fix something is so small," Hensley said.
Some NASCAR fans are all in.
Merrill, who attends a few races each year, also bet on Larson to win Sunday and wagered on some prop bets.
"Kurt Busch to finish in the top 10. Over 6½ lead changes," he said. "It makes the whole experience more involved. Sitting at the race and having money on it makes you pay more attention to what's going on."
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