SBD/Issue 236/Sports & Society

Delaware Officials Awaiting Clarification On Sports Bet Ruling

Dover Downs Web Site Still Advertising
Sports Book Opening On September 1
The proper facilities and machines are "in place for Delaware to launch sports betting" by its originally scheduled start date next Tuesday, but state officials yesterday said that they "must wait for the federal court opinion before deciding what the game will look like and when it will start," according to Ginger Gibson of the Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL. State officials had planned to offer single-game bets on sporting events, but lottery officials following the ruling that such bets would "violate federal law" have "assumed a holding pattern awaiting a written opinion from the court." Delaware Gov. Jack Markell yesterday said that his administration is "still deciding whether to appeal, but at this point, he believes the racinos should offer 'parlay bets on just NFL games at this point.'" Delaware Lottery Dir Wayne Lemons said that the "equipment to conduct sports betting is either already being installed at the casinos or in the process of being installed." Dover Downs CEO Ed Sutor said that he "anticipates the sports betting start date will be pushed back" to September 8, two days before the start of the NFL season. Sutor noted that he is "unsure whether betting will be limited to professional football or include other professional sports." He added that Dover Downs will "open its sports betting area" next Tuesday, but "will offer only horse betting at that time" (Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL, 8/26). Markell spokesperson Joe Rogalsky yesterday said, "We will know more in the next few days after the state has had time to review the Circuit Court's written opinion, which has not been released yet. The casinos ... are disappointed. But the state is going to work with them to make sure the Sports Lottery is as successful as possible" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/26).

SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: In Wilmington, Sean O'Sullivan reports legal experts were "all surprised" by the appeals court's ruling, when it was "expected only to rule on a motion for a preliminary injunction." Willamette Univ. law professor Jeffrey Standen said the ruling was "hasty," "ill-advised," and "unnecessary judicial lawmaking." Northeastern Univ. professor Roger Abrams said that he was "particularly stunned by not only the court's changing the apparent rules for the game ... but also the speed at which it did it." But appellate attorney Thomas Neuberger contends the ruling was the "judicial system at its best" and showed the "federal court can move just as quickly as the state court." Neuberger added that it "looked like the attorneys for Delaware 'were caught unawares and weren't really ready for this. ... They were outplayed'" (Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL, 8/26). In Philadelphia, Dick Jerardi analyzes Delaware's next move, and writes, "Hard to see any good ones, as the court was very decisive in its ruling. An appeal is possible, but, given the time constraints, with the opening of football season almost here, it is difficult to see an obviously good tactic for the state." The state has the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, but "given that the Supreme Court is just about to begin a new term and has many weighty matters on its agenda, it likely would be very difficult to get a hearing any time soon, if ever" (PHILADELPHIA daily news, 8/26).

DOUBLE STANDARD: The WASHINGTON EXAMINER's Jim Williams writes the four major sports leagues and the NCAA won the case because "gambling on sports in any way threatens to destroy the very fabric of the games that are played." But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can "stop at a newsstand and choose either a Giants or a Jets New York lottery ticket with their official logo being used to entice people to gamble," and NBA Commissioner David Stern can "bring his fellow commissioners to watch the WNBA play games at Mohegan Sun Casino." Williams: "But thank goodness sports are safe from legal gambling in Delaware" (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 8/26). In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes, "Obviously, the NFL isn't opposed to gambling." If fans can "buy a Patriots lottery ticket, then you ought to be able to bet on the Patriots to beat the Bills" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 8/26).

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