Marketplace Scratch Pad

The little state that could

Scott Jagow May 13, 2009

Delaware is about to become the only state east of the Mississippi to offer legal gambling on sports. I have a feeling Delaware’s neighbors (and most states for that matter) are writhing in jealousy. But, in a glaring case of hypocrisy, the NFL and NCAA are trying to stop Delaware.

Delaware is one of only four states exempt from a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling because they had previously authorized sports betting. Montana, Oregon and of course, Nevada, are the others.

The NFL has filed a legal brief with Delaware’s Supreme Court, saying sports betting poses a threat to the “integrity of its games.”

But the NFL plays games in London, where there are sports betting parlors everywhere. The NFL has a huge contract with ESPN, which has regular segments on picking games with the point spreads. Betting on the NFL is already a big business in Vegas, which has no ties to the NFL otherwise. Neither does Delaware.

College sports betting won’t be allowed under Delaware’s law, but the NCAA is objecting anyway. Does the NCAA express outrage at the March Madness office pools? Of course not. The NCAA also holds a bowl game in Las Vegas. Several Pac-10 schools have casino ads in their stadiums.

But the real story here is that if Delaware is successful, other states may push to get the 1992 law reversed. New Jersey is already trying. And many other states are already doing everything they can to increase gambling revenues because of budget shortfalls.

Here’s a rundown of what some states are doing from opposingviews.com:

  • California voters May 19 will consider allowing the state to borrow $5 billion against future lottery proceeds as part of a deal to balance the budget.
  • Illinois has a proposal that would allow lottery tickets to be sold on line.
  • Georgia Lottery has pitched casino gambling at Underground Atlanta, a shopping and dining area downtown.
  • Iowa introduced two new lottery games to fund veterans’ programs and considered privatizing the lottery.
  • Maine regulators approved expanding casino gambling hours to include Sunday morning.
  • Ohio regulators proposed allowing 14,000 video slot machines at seven horse racetracks and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team wants voters to decide whether four casinos should be built in the state.

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