Delaware sports betting loses in court

    Delaware’s sports betting law suffers a huge loss. A federal court judge in Philadelphia rules the state can not offer gamblers the choice to bet on single sports games.

    The state of Delaware won’t be allowed to run the sports betting plan it was banking on when sports betting begins on September 1st.  A three judge federal court panel in Philadelphia struck down the Delaware law Monday.

    The NCAA along with the four major sports leagues took issue with a Delaware law passed in the spring allowing for single game bets places on games. The U.S. District court ruling agreed with NCAA, the NFL, MLB, the NBA, and the NHL that the single bet on sports games violated the professional and amateur protection act.

    The NFL’s attorney Ken Nachbar told WHYY’s Tom Byrne his clients are very happy with the decision.  “When Congress enacted the PASPA (professional, amateur sports protection act) they understood there was a certain amount of sports betting, but that sports betting shouldn’t be expanded.  And it won’t be because of this ruling,” Nachbar said.

    Sports bets are set to start September 1st at Delaware’s three race track/casinos (racinos). The ruling means if sports betting were to take place it would have to be done as a parlay bet, meaning bettors would have to bet multiple games. Some experts in this field who have followed this process closely in Delaware have said this would not be as attractive to the average person who would be interested in sports betting.

    Delaware officials expressed surprise by the ruling.  Governor Jack Markell released a statement: “Obviously, I am disappointed with the Court’s decision and will be meeting with the state’s attorneys to evaluate our options.  Nevertheless, the state still has the legal authority to offer a sports lottery of parlays involving professional football games, which is a competitive advantage for our three Racinos.  We look forward to welcoming Delaware visitors from all over the region to place parlay bets on professional football games.”

    The Governor’s legal counsel, Michael Barlow told WHYY’s Tom Bryne he was stunned when he heard the ruling in a federal court room in Philadelphia,  “we felt pretty good about our arguments, and it seems like these three judges have a different view of the issue, so we’ll be discussing our options from here.”

    Barlow went on to tell Tom Byrne the state will likely go ahead with sports betting as allowed by the PASPA. “We look forward to proceeding with what the Court, I believe, is going to say we can, which is a professional football lottery involving multiple elements.  We’ll be moving forward with that over the next few weeks,” Barlow said.

    The goal for Delaware was to prove the state was not in violation of a 1992 federal ban on sports betting.  Delaware had been exempted along with Nevada, Montana, and Oregon because it had once offered sports betting in the 1970’s.

    Sports betting became a major issue in Governor Jack Markell’s attempts to add new sources of revenue for the state.   Sports betting will be offered at Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway.

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