Delaware criticizes final order in sports-betting case

John O'Brien Sep. 10, 2009, 2:47pm


WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) - The State of Delaware is claiming the final order entered in its battle with sports leagues over sports betting is inconsistent with an opinion released by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Sleet issued an order Sept. 1 that prevented any single-game bets on NFL games and betting of any kind on MLB, NCAA, NHL or NBA games. He entered the order after a three-judge panel in the Third Circuit found Delaware's plan unlawful.

Attorneys for Gov. Jack Markell and State Lottery Office Director Wayne Lemons said the order was inappropriate at this stage of the proceedings.

"(T)his court does not have jurisdiction to enter a permanent injunction granting final relief because the case remains pending in the Third Circuit until a mandate issues," the letter to Sleet Tuesday said.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, enacted in 1992, 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 parley bets on NFL games.

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

Barring any kind of betting that Delaware didn't allow in 1976 is also unacceptable, the letter says.

"The Third Circuit explicitly rejected the proposition that PASPA bars Delaware from offering any sports lottery games that vary from those offered by the State of Delaware in 1976," it said.

"The Third Circuit further held that PASPA permits Delaware to 'institute multi-game (parlay) betting on at least three NFL games' without limitation on the specific features of such lottery games. The third enumerated clause (of Sleet's order) could be read as proscribing certain lottery games that are expressly permitted by the Third Circuit's opinion."

A letter from the sports leagues' attorneys agreed that once a mandate issued from the Third Circuit, a need to address the final form order may arise.

"Contrary to the State's suggestion, the Third Circuit's opinion is clear that the State may not pursue two-game parlays," it said.

"After reviewing types of betting that the State may not now conduct because it did not conduct that betting in 1976, the court ruled as follows: 'Under federal law, Delaware may, however, institute multi-game betting on at least three NFL games, because such betting is consistent with the scheme to the extent it was conducted in 1976.'"

The NFL said it will not challenge three-game parlay betting.

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