20090514 nascar delaware 18
Aric Almirola celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Series Sunoco 150 at Dover International Speedway on September 19, 2008 in Dover, Del. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Delaware's always been known as "The First State." First in the union -- way back in 1787. And starting at 11 this morning eastern time, it'll be the first state east of the mighty Mississippi to legalize sports betting. That could mean $50 million or more a year to boost Delaware's budget. Here's Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Delaware has decided to take advantage of a 30-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gave four states -- Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware -- the right to legalize sports gambling.

COLIN BONINI: I think there is a tremendous underground economy that will start to surface in Delaware. And I think its going to be a tremendous cash cow.

Even so, Republican State Senator Colin Bonini opposes legalizing bets on the outcome of sporting events -- on moral grounds -- and because he thinks it'll bring in too much cash.

BONINI: And I think we're gonna be so flush with money that we're gonna spend even more irresponsibly in the future.

Plus, Bonini figures Delaware's move will be so successful, its neighbors will want in on the action. Economics professor James Butkiewicz at the University of Delaware says legalized gambling is an attractive way for states to raise revenue.

JAMES BUTKIEWICZ:If the state is taking a share of the house cut, that's a voluntary payment of taxes. You don't have to fill out a form, you certainly can choose not to gamble and pay zero taxes.

Another risk for Delaware: Professional sports leagues -- and the NCAA -- vehemently oppose betting on the outcome of their games. Delaware has no major league teams, but the NCAA says schools like the University of Delaware can forget hosting any league championship games.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.