Delaware has sports leagues miffed

Aug 4, 2009 5:03 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

NFL, et al fear betting may spread

The NFL and other major sports leagues hear the disturbing rumble of approaching problems that can be summed up in the following question: Can anyone imagine a number of states allowing sports wagering on major sporting events?

Major sports leagues, from the NFL to the NHL and the NCAA get cold chills at the mere thought of anything like this.

Which is why the leagues went to court in Delaware to halt that state’s bid to launch single event sports betting at three Delaware racinos in time for football season.

Delaware itself is not the problem. The problem is where the issue might go from there. Delaware’s neighbor, New Jersey, has already seen the filing of a federal court suit seeking to overturn the 1992 federal ban that limits any kind of sports betting to Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has thrown his support to the action.

So Delaware is the battleground where the leagues hope to bury this effort by casinos and state governments to hijack their valued brands and piggyback lucrative businesses on them.

Delaware had hoped to have sports betting available by the start of football season, the first week of September, with table games installed by the end of the year. But looking beyond that, there is the prospect of New Jersey’s eventual success as it seeks to reverse the effects of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

And if New Jersey is successful, or even if is not, then racinos and slot parlors in New York and Pennsylvania can be counted on to push the envelope as far and as quickly as they can.

Steve Wynn and other developers spent much of last week in New York making their personal pitches for the right to operate some 4,500 VLTs at the Aqueduct racetrack. If he’s successful he’ll develop an entertainment complex that would lead to an eventual demand for sports betting.

A top executive with another company interested in the East Coast racino scene said, "I don’t know why the Seminoles aren’t all over this sport betting thing. It’s not like they care what the courts say."

Sports betting does not by itself make all that much money, but its presence adds pizzazz to other spending opportunities. March Madness has become a big event in Nevada because it brings sports bettors to town, people who stay a few days or a couple of weeks, betting the games but also spending money wherever they go.

And if New Jersey is successful, does anyone believe this opportunity for leveraging America’s devotion to sports would be lost on states that have large numbers of professional sports leagues and probably already have some form of gambling?

Such possibilities are enough to send chills up and down the spines of big thinkers employed by sports leagues everywhere.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Phil Hevener