Wilmington, here I come.
Last Thursday, all five of the justices on the Delaware Supreme Court decided to uphold a sports lottery law that was signed by Governor Jack Markell earlier in May. In other words, legalized sports gambling - which will include NFL and college football - will be coming to Delaware this fall. When Congress passed the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (which banned states from being in the bookmaking business), Delaware was one of only four states - along with Nevada, Oregon, and Montana - that had sports betting laws already in its books.
The Delaware Constitution states that 'lottery games that provide some skill to win are permissible' and that lottery games don't have to be based on chance alone. The constitution, however, does state that chance must be the dominant factor. Shockingly, straight bets - like the ones we make to our bookies on college and NFL games with the spread, money-line, and over/unders - are considered to be the most lucrative form of wagering for the casinos.
Not surprisingly, the NFL has continued to fight this law every step of the way. After submitting their own brief, one of their representatives, Wilmington lawyer Kenneth Nachbar, addressed the court at a hearing in May. "That's not luck. That's skill," said Nachbar. He went on to say that the NFL will fight this bill with a state of federal lawsuit.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail: "We expect that everyone involved in the administration of sports leagues -- professional and amateur -- will review today's action and evaluate its impact as other decisions are made by Delaware officials and the Delaware Supreme Court."
The irony here is that why the NFL is continuing to fight sports gambling in Delaware because 'bettors will have too good of a chance to win,' they just approved a business venture that will allow teams to put their logo on lottery tickets. In other words, after you lose on your $10 scratch-n-sniff lotto ticket, you can keep the ticket as a souvenir. Both the owners of the NFL teams and the state lottery will get a share of the profits from the lottery sales. Evidently, bettors don't have a good enough chance to win on the lottery ticket so therefore, its acceptable.
Governor Markell has said that he hopes to have three sports books at Delaware's horse tracks by the first weekend of football this fall. Markell stated that the addition of the sports betting and table games at Delaware’s casinos could raise at a minimum $50 million, which would in part help "fill a projected $800 million hole in the state’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget."
Personally, I think the governor is significantly low-balling that estimate. According to my Google map below, I see that Wilmington, DE is 83.8 miles from Atlantic City.
Let's think about this. Although Delaware can't offer the parties and lights of Atlantic City, most of the same heavy bettors that frequent the casinos just happen to claim football as their favorite American past time. If you are looking to get out of the house to gamble, which most people that go to Atlantic City are, then why not head on over to Delaware where you get football, horses, and table games? It will definitely save you the headache, the time, and the cost of a cross-country trip to Las Vegas. Furthermore, it doesn't hurt that New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. are a hop, skip, and jump away from what should make a pretty good Saturday or Sunday. Cha-Ching.
My advice to Governor Markell: If you build it, they will come.