WILMINGTON (CN) – Professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued Delaware to stop a state sports lottery that will allow single-game gambling on almost all professional and amateur sports. Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA say allowing betting on single games will cause the public to question the integrity of their sports. They want the state enjoined from taking bets on the opening games of the NFL season, which begins Sept. 10.
The sports leagues say in the federal complaint that Delaware’s new sports betting law violates the state constitution and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. That law was enacted by Congress in 1992 to stop the spread of sports gambling except for four grandfathered states, including Delaware.
Delaware has turned to sports betting to try to put a dent in the its $800 million budget deficit.
The defendants – Gov. Jack Markell and Lottery Office Director Wayne Lemons – plan to offer single-game betting, which requires a certain amount of skill and was not part of the state’s unsuccessful 1976 sports betting choices. Those games included only “parlay” betting, which involves multiple athletic contests and a low degree of skill, making the bettor pick all the wining teams or the total points scored in all the games.
The Delaware Constitution allows only “games of pure chance” and “games in which chance is the dominant determining factor.”
Though single-game betting is not singled out in the constitution, it is a form of sports betting that was not offered in Delaware’s 1976 games.
The state abandoned sports betting in December 1976, after only one NFL season, when the Lottery Office offered a “bad line” mistake and had to draw on its emergency fund to pay off the bettors.
Plaintiffs say that PASPA allows the four grandfathered states that offered sports betting between 1976 and 1990 to operate only the sports gambling schemes they employed formerly – not any new games.
Before the Legislature passed the sports betting legislation, Gov. Markell asked to the state Supreme Court for an opinion on its constitutionality. The court did not specifically address single-game betting, but it said that the Delaware Constitution permits lotteries involving an element of skill if “chance is the dominant or controlling factor.”
Plaintiffs say that single-game betting requires a significant degree of skill.