NFL turns to federal court to stop betting in Del.

John O'Brien Jul. 24, 2009, 12:23pm

WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) - Upset with a ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court that approved sports betting in the state, the NFL, along with three other major sports leagues and the NCAA, have filed a lawsuit in federal court.

The lawsuit, which also lists the NHL, NBA and MLB as plaintiffs, was filed Friday against Gov. Jack Markell and Wayne Lemons, the director of Delaware State Lottery Office. It seeks to stop the state from allowing single-game betting on pro and college games.

Legislation passed this year would make Delaware the fourth state -- and first east of the Mississippi River -- to allow sports betting. The NFL filed an amicus brief and participated in oral arguments before the Delaware Supreme Court in May.

"Sports lotteries involving single-game betting threaten the integrity of professional and amateur sports and are fundamentally at odds with the principle -- essential to the success of MLB, the NBA, the NCAA, the NFL and the NHL -- that the outcomes of professional and collegiate athletic contests must be perceived by the public as being determined solely on the bases of honest athletic competition," the complaint says.

"Sports leagues have consistently opposed legalized sports gambling in other states and at the federal level because sports betting undermines the public's faith and confidence in the character of professional and amateur team sports."

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 allowed prohibited most states from offering sports betting, but four states were grandfathered in the legislation because they had previously operated it. Delaware was one of the states.

The complaint says Delaware, though, had never offered single-game wagering during its 1976 sports lottery, which only allowed parlay bets on NFL games.

Since Delaware didn't allow single-game betting then, it shouldn't be able to now, the sports leagues say.

The complaint also says the proposed sports betting violates the state's Constitution.

"Delaware's Sports Betting Scheme does not constitute a 'lottery' for purposes of Article II, Section 17 of the Delaware Constitution because chance is not the 'dominant determining factor,' particularly in head-to-head or single-game betting," the complaint says.

"Sports gambling -- particularly when it involves betting on the outcome of a single athletic contest -- is an activity in which skill plays a significant role, as bettors gather and analyze information relating to the teams and sports on which they are betting and compare their own internal assessments with those generated by odds-makers."

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