Single-game wagering is at the heart of the Delaware dispute

Jul 27, 2009 |
Single-game wagering is at the heart of the Delaware dispute

Delaware politicians are ready to battle their new multi-headed opponent on the issue of legalized sports gambling, but it appears a compromise could be made with the sports leagues if the state promises to stick with a parlay betting system.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA filed a joint lawsuit last week in an attempt to prevent Delaware’s motion to legally open sports betting within the state.

Recently elected Governor Jack Markell has stated since taking office that a sports betting lottery system in Delaware would help lower the state’s growing debt. His office estimates the betting system would bring in $55 million to the state on an annual basis.

“We asked for and received a Delaware Supreme Court advisory opinion prior to moving forward to ensure we are in compliance with state law,” Joe Rogalsky, the governor’s communications director told reporters. “We invited the NFL to sit down and share their concerns. They decided instead to sue.”

The Supreme Court’s decision did not include any mention of single-game wagering, referring instead to the state’s previously run parlay system from the 1970s.

Lawyers representing the sports organizations claim that the Justices declined to address the issue because they “recognized that single-game betting is significantly different from the parlay games.”

The leagues claim single-game betting would be a violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) from 1992, which prevents states from sanctioning wagering on US sports.

Delaware is one of four states that are exempt from aspects of this law. The state’s previous foray into sports betting was a disaster in the 1970s because of poor line setting.

The NFL has been opposed to liberation of wagering from the get-go, but it appears that Delaware’s push for single-game wagering - as opposed to a parlay system – was the league’s breaking point.

"Sports gambling – particularly when it involves betting on the outcome of a single athletic contest – is an activity in which skill plays a significant role, as bettors gather and analyze information relating to the teams and sports on which they are betting and compare their own internal assessments with those generated by oddsmakers," lawyers for the leagues wrote.

Last week, according to, a lawyer representing the leagues submitted a letter to the governor’s office reiterating the concern.

“As the leagues and the NCAA have stated on numerous occasions, single game wagering presents a direct threat to the integrity of their games.”

The case is not open and shut. The result of the lawsuit will likely depend on the interpretation of the wording in the PASPA bill from 1992. There are some experts who feel the leagues’ case is shaky at best.

“One of the big problems, legally, is that it’s extremely hard to justify a law that says no gambling, no betting on sports events, except of course in Nevada, where it’s a mult-billion dollar industry, and a few other states,” I. Nelson Rose, a law professor and specialist on wagering issues, told Delaware’s News Journal.

More details about the lawsuit are expected to come out early this week, when it is expect the leagues will ask for an injunction to block Delaware’s plan to open sports betting in September.

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