Some Information, Please!!!

By Dick Jerardi
Updated: August 26, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — With the surprising ruling Monday by the three-judge panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit that the proposed Delaware sports betting violates federal law, there are far more questions than answers about the in-limbo enterprise.

Given that Delaware officials did not expect the decision and mostly seemed stunned by it, they spent much of Tuesday gathering their thoughts while trying to plan their next move, if they have one.

Here are a few of the questions with some potential answers:

Q. Now that single-game bets are out, will the sports books at the state’s three racetracks open as scheduled on Sept. 1?

A. Not likely, said one well-informed source. Given that the three judges apparently decided that Delaware could conduct only the same type of sports betting it had before the 1992 Federal PASPA law (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), there is really no reason for the books to open Tuesday.

In 1976, Delaware had a game involving the NFL in which a bettor had to select a three-team parlay against the spread and be right on all three. That is a 5-to-1 proposition. Apparently, that might be the game the state can use this time around. The court may decide that.

So, no baseball, no college football, etc. Since the NFL does not start until Sept. 10, there is little reason to open the books on Sept. 1. More likely, if the state, tracks and contract holders (Scientific Games, Brandywine Bookmaking) for technology and risk management decide to go ahead with parlay bets on the NFL, it would more likely start right after Labor Day.

Q. Why did the court rule the way it did?

A. No way to tell from the stilted six-line document that was issued after Monday’s hearing. The judges are expected to issue a more extensive ruling soon. Apparently, they interpreted the 1992 law literally and retroactively applied what they perceived to be the Delaware standards in place at that time and before that time.

Q. Does the state of Delaware have a next move?

A. Hard to see any good ones, as the court was very decisive in its ruling. An appeal is possible, but, given the time constraints, with the opening of football season almost here, it is difficult to see an obviously good tactic for the state.

Delaware has 14 days from Monday’s ruling to ask for a hearing in front of the entire court, or it can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Given that the Supreme Court is just about to begin a new term and has many weighty matters on its agenda, it likely would be very difficult to get a hearing there any time soon, if ever.

Q. What will Delaware Park, Harrington and Dover Downs do?

A. First, they will have to wait on the state and the lottery (which oversees sports betting) to see what they plan. Meanwhile, if nothing changes, they will have to find a way to recoup the millions they spent on new facilities and new equipment in anticipation of sports betting.

Q. What happens to potential employees who quit other jobs to move to Delaware?

A. Many of them could be out of luck. The tracks were hiring new people, as were the holders of the contract to make sports betting work. Now, there might be no jobs.

Q. How much economic harm will come to Delaware?

A. The legislation was passed to make up for a budget shortfall. It also was expected that sports bettors would frequent hotels and restaurants near the tracks, that the indirect economic effect could be as significant as the direct economic effect. Now, all that is on hold.

Q. Why do the professional sports leagues and the NCAA care so much about this?

A. Hard to know.

They say it’s about protecting the integrity of the games. They obviously know billions are bet on their games illegally. Players in Nevada can do it legally, but it is an American tradition to bet on sports. It is one of the reasons the games are so popular. The NFL certainly knows this.

Q. So why the outcry?

A. Public relations, perhaps. Look, somebody is always out there trying to manipulate games. That would be true with or without single-game sports betting in Delaware.

Wonder whether the reaction from the leagues and NCAA would be the same if Delaware had offered to cut them in for a piece of the action.

Q. Where is Rush Limbaugh on all this?

A. You wonder why the Great Pontificator hasn’t caused a stir by blasting the feds for violating the states’ rights of the First State.

Q. Who is happy with the decision?

A. Delaware Valley bookmakers.

Q. Who is unhappy?

A. The taxpayers of Delaware and area sports bettors who might like to make a legal bet.

Q. Is this franchise worth what it was Monday morning?

A. No. Not even close. This was dependent on volume and, without single-game betting, there won’t be much volume, especially if this is, in fact, limited to the 1976 parlay-style bets that flopped so badly that the project was quickly abandoned.

It was expected that the game in 1976 would handle about $6 million for an NFL season. In fact, it handled only $720,000.