By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A ribbon cutting opened legalized sports betting at the Rivers Casino on the North Shore on Thursday afternoon, and Ryan Marton of White Oak was among the first to bet.

“Sportsbook’s open today, so it was a good time to bet on the Steelers big for a big win Sunday night and also a Super Bowl win,” Marton said.

The Rivers Casino expects home team betting.

Photo Credit: KDKA

“This city has a love affair with its professional sports,” Rivers General Manager Bill Keena told KDKA-TV.

The proximity of the casino to Heinz Field is huge.

“I think we’re going to have some long lines on Sundays,” Keena said.

Keena says there is lots of pent-up demand to bet on all kinds of professional and college sports.

“We know that there is a lot of sports wagering going on, mostly underground,” said Doug Harbach, of the PA Gaming Control Board. “If you look at the American Gaming Association, they believe that is a $150 billion nationwide market.

“Even raising a portion of that up above ground and legal and then taxing it should be a good revenue producer for the commonwealth.”

No prediction yet on the revenue, but the casinos are taxed 36 percent of their gross revenue after bets are paid off.

Bettors can place a bet with Rivers personnel or through a kiosk, all in cash, with the odds set by Kambi.

“Kambi is our partner who we use to set all of the lines, our risk management, and they do this all around the world,” said Andrei Barbabei with the Rivers Casino.

Right now, the New England Patriots are favored to beat the Steelers by 2-and-a-half points on Sunday evening.

So if you put money on the Steelers, say $100, and they win, or lose by less than 2-and-a-half points, your winnings would be $191.

Even a novice can learn the system, and the Rivers is counting on thousands learning no matter how they bet.

“It’s about the heart, and not the odds,” says Glenn Zary of Oakdale.

“It makes the games more exciting if you put a little money on them,” said Jim Kladnik of Jeannette.

Now, anyone 21 and over can take part in the soft opening until midnight Thursday, and then again Friday from noon until 10 p.m.

All-day sports betting will begin officially at the Rivers at 9 a.m. on Saturday.