With the 2009 regular season only a couple of months away, the state of Delaware intends to proceed with gambling on NFL games.
Delaware lottery director Wayne Lemons told USA Today that the program will permit betting on individual games and multi-game “parlay card” wagering.
Before the sports gambling initiative became law earlier this year, the Delaware Supreme Court was asked to provide an advisory opinion as to whether the measure complied with the Delaware Constitution. The NFL opposed the measure, submitting a brief to the Delaware Supreme Court and participated in a hearing on the matter.
The league argued that, because the Delaware Constitution permits only lotteries based on chance, skill-based wagering on football games runs afoul of the law.
The Delaware Supreme Court subsequently disagreed.
Moving forward, the league could file a lawsuit to block the betting. But a case filed in Delaware state court likely wouldn’t prevail, given the Delaware Supreme Court’s advance interpretation of the law.
Federal court provides a possible avenue as well, given a 1992 federal law banning any future sports wagering. Delaware believes that a short-lived (and ill-fated) experiment with sports betting in 1976 exempts the new program from the ’92 federal prohibition; the league — or even the federal government — could challenge that position.
There’s also a chance that Delaware could end up choosing to pull the plug, if the house takes the same kind of bath that it did 33 years ago. The challenge will be to set (and adjust) the betting lines and the over/under limbo poles in a manner that results in equal betting on each side of every gamble. That way, Delaware is guaranteed to make a profit from the eleventh dollar that is wagered in order to win ten.
Though the placing of the bets might entail luck (we don’t think it does), the setting of the lines requires a high degree of skill. And if Delaware gets it wrong, the money that supposedly will be flowing in to the state’s coffers could in reality end up flowing out to folks who’ll enjoy the fruits of a unique type of tax refund.