Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sports Leagues' Opposition to Delaware Gambling Laws Are Hypocritical

**UPDATE** Judge Gregory Sleet has named December 7, 2009 as the date for the beginning of the trial for the lawsuit brought upon Delaware by the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA. Judge Sleet also denied a request by the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented Delaware from holding betting on the NFL this fall. Judge Sleet has also stated that he would rule on the request by the leagues for a summary judgment in their favor before November. This is a big win for the state of Delaware, as professional and college sports officials scramble to stop single-game betting in Delaware.

Delaware, the first state to join the union and the home to Vice President Joe Biden, is a small state with big plans to wipe out its statewide debt. Finding itself in the national news for the first time since December 1787, Delaware has secured a place in the headlines of the national sports media for its plans to legalize individual-game sports betting.

Delaware is one of four states exempt from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that banned betting on sports across the nation. Nevada, Montana and Oregon are the other three. So how did Delaware get so lucky? Because of a brief, but unsuccessful, foray into sports betting lotteries in 1976. However, Delaware's sports betting lottery from the '76 NFL season involved only parlay bets in which the bettor is required to pick the winner of several games. Delaware is now pushing for single-game betting on NFL games starting in September when the 2009 season kicks off. The new betting laws would also allow betting on sports other than professional football.

The NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block Delaware from allowing single-game bets. The plaintiffs have also filed an injunction that would block the state from allowing sports betting while the two sides argue the legality of single-game sports betting in Delaware. This would likely prohibit sports betting in Delaware during the 2009 NFL season.

The four professional leagues and the NCAA are arguing that the four states exempt from the 1992 law are not allowed to introduce new betting laws, but are instead relegated to offering only the sports betting lotteries that the state offered before the federal law in 1992, i.e. a multi-game parlay lottery of NFL games in Delaware's case. Nevada re-legalized gambling in 1931 after outlawing it in 1909. It has never turned back and the licensed sports pools that existed in Nevada prior to the 1992 federal act exempted Nevada from the law. Single-game betting is allowed in Nevada.

The attorneys representing the state of Delaware argue instead that the state is permitted under federal law to offer any state regulated gambling lottery.

Despite the lawsuit filed by the four professional leagues and the NCAA, professional and college sports have exhibited behavior that has been construed as hypocritical by some. The Texas Lottery Commission has announced that the Dallas Cowboys, in many ways the face of the NFL, will be featured on a new scratch off game to be launched in a couple of weeks. This despite the NFL's outrage over the legalization of single-game sports betting on the East coast. Texas must be far enough West by the NFL's ethical and geographical gambling standards. The Cowboys are not the only NFL team to be featured on state lottery games.

The NCAA has not been clean of hypocrisy either as Delaware majority leader Peter Schwartzkopf points out, "the NCAA ... sponsored the Las Vegas Bowl last year, housing its players in hotel casinos where bets are taken on games."

Schwartzkopf also stated:

"It is hard to imagine why moving forward with sports betting in Delaware will undermine the integrity of professional or college sports. Las Vegas has promoted sports betting for many years, so Delaware is not covering new ground here. When it comes to expanding state sponsored gaming, legitimate debate and discussion should continue among Delaware’s elected representatives and its citizens. But the self-serving, hypocritical pronouncements and legal threats by these for-profit sports leagues that have sued Delaware should be rejected."

Schwartzkopf points out that the NFL receives millions of dollars from broadcasting companies such as CBS, FOX and ESPN that have links to sports gambling. He also claims that the owner of the Sacramento Kings- the Maloof family- is a part owner of a Nevada casino (The Palms). In fact, George Maloof is the owner of the casino with only a 5% ownership from the Greenspun Corporation. The NHL holds an annual awards ceremony at The Palms as well. Schwartzkopf has also pointed out a marketing and promotional agreement between the New York Mets and Harrah's Entertainment-a casino company-at CitiField in Queens, New York. In fact, casino sponsorships exist in almost every stadium, arena and ballpark in the four major sports leagues. These points were mentioned in a letter Schwartzkopf wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The letter was obtained by the Associated Press.

The boys on Pardon the Interruption, a popular ESPN show featuring Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, slammed the NFL for its control-freak attitude towards its players. Although they were not speaking directly on the subject of gambling, their comments play into the debate quite fittingly.

The topic focused around control and was in response to Antonio Cromartie's fine of $2,500 by the San Diego Chargers for a Twitter complaint about the team's food. Wilbon points out that, "The NFL wants to control your life." At one point he exclaimed, "[The NFL] would like to tell players on what nights they can have sex with their wives! That's what the NFL does." Kornheiser was a bit more cautious in his approach, noting that, "The NFL sells anti-individuals," and "[The NFL] puts helmets on [the players'] heads!" speaking to the manner in which they suppress their players from any notion of individualism. While Kornheiser agreed that the NFL is a fiend for control, he defended the approach.

The subject of controlling their players is unlikely to come up in court, although it gives fans a window into the attitude and overbearing rules that has earned the NFL the nickname 'No Fun League.'

As the four professional leagues argue the impact that Delaware's single-game sports betting laws will have on the outcome of their games, they will have to overcome the not-so-squeaky-clean image that Peter Schwartzkopf has revealed and sports fans around the globe could plainly see.

And tell me the NCAA doesn't promote office brackets and pools every March when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

Written By Danny Hobrock

What lines will Delaware use for the NFL? Click here to see early online NFL week 1 lines.