Federal Appeals Court Rules Delaware Sports Betting Law Is in Violation of Prohibition Against Sports Gambling

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A sports betting law in Delaware is in violation of a federal prohibition against sports gambling, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The Delaware legislation had been challenged by the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA in a lawsuit.

Delaware was exempted from the federal ban on sports gambling. But the professional leagues and the NCAA had maintained that the Delaware legislation is illegal because the state was planning to offer single-game betting for the first time.

A three-judge panel in Philadelphia made the ruling after hearing arguments from attorneys for both sides for nearly two hours Monday.

"We're delighted," Kenneth Nachbar, an attorney representing the pro leagues and the NCAA, told reporters after the ruling, according to a transcript provided by the NFL. "We felt that the Delaware scheme violated [the federal sports gambling ban]. The court has ruled that way. We couldn't be happier."

Delaware had intended to put its sports betting plan into effect next month as a revenue-generating mechanism. Now state officials must decide whether to accept parlay bets on multiple NFL games, which the leagues did not contend is illegal.

State leaders also must decide whether to appeal Monday's ruling, either to the full appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're very disappointed with today's ruling," Michael Barlow, the legal counsel to Gov. Jack Markell, said, according to the Associated Press.

The appeals court judges ruled that the state's betting plan, as currently constituted with single-game betting, violated a 1992 federal ban on sports wagering known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Delaware's exemption came because it ran a 1976 sports lottery with parlay bets on at least three NFL games. Other states with exemptions are Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

At issue in the case was whether Delaware could expand its sports gambling to include single-game betting and wagering on sports other than the NFL.

"We were hoping that they would [rule on] the merits," Nachbar said. "We urged them to. We are glad that they did. . . . We thought that we had a good case on the merits from the beginning and we just pressed that case and we're delighted with the result."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had expressed strong opposition to the Delaware legislation.

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