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Delaware eyes sports betting for lottery

Feb 3, 2009 5:07 PM
Staff & Wire Reports |

Program may be ready for fall football

Delaware officials are considering introducing a proposal for a sports betting lottery, if approved, would be up and running by the start of the 2009 football season.

Unlike Nevada sports betting, in which bettors pick the outcome of a game, a sports lottery in Delaware would include parlays in its format.

Delaware is one of only four states, along with Nevada, Montana and Oregon, that received grandfathered exemptions from a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling.

Officials in Governor Jack Markell’s administration last week told Delaware legislators that they are less concerned about getting a game in place quickly than in developing one that will be successful. The state unsuccessfully experimented with a sports betting lottery in the late 1970s.

"We were not able to generate the revenue we were expecting," said Tom Cook, the state’s deputy finance secretary.

Cook said the General Assembly would have to pass a bill by early April for sports lottery to be operating by September.

Estimates of how much money sports gambling could bring to the state have varied widely. A study commissioned by the Video Lottery Advisory Council, which represents Delaware’s three slot machine casinos, estimated that Delaware could collect about $70 million annually, but a government-commissioned report put the boost to annual state revenues at about $26 million.

"It’s tough to really nail something like that down," Cook said, adding that the consensus seems to be that the spin-off revenue from attracting more players to slot machine casinos, where sports bets would be made, would exceed the amount of revenue from sports betting itself.

State finance director Gary Pfeiffer said administration officials will spend the next few weeks evaluating various issues surrounding sports betting before deciding to recommend to Gov. Markell whether a bill should be introduced.

Pfeiffer said any proposal from the administration would include an opinion from the state attorney general’s office to ensure that it complies with federal law.