Delaware passes sportsbetting bill - update

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May 13, 2009
The news earlier this week that Delaware legislators in the House had passed a sports betting bill (see previous InfoPowa report) has been augmented by reports that the Senate has also approved the bill by 17 votes to 2.

The Senate approval was faster and smoother than the governor's first attempt to get the bill through the House, which failed. He then submitted a reworked and milder version which passed by a 30 to 4 margin and as progressed to the Senate.

On Tuesday the Senate voted to suspend normal rules and allowed the bill to be debated in the full chamber. A short time later, the bill passed 17-2 with two abstentions.

"I am very pleased that the senate acted so quickly to pass the sports lottery legislation and I very much appreciate the leadership from both sides of the aisle," Gov. Markell said in a statement. "In particular, I want to thank Senator Deluca as the lead senate sponsor and the leadership in the house of representatives who came together to get us closer to our meeting our budget challenges."

Markell, who has been a major backer of the bill, is expected to sign the bill later this week and the target is to have the betting system in place for the start of the NFL season.

Whenever it's signed, Delaware will become the first state east of the Mississippi to allow sports wagering. It's estimated that sports betting will generate about $50 million annually for Delaware, which Markell said will help with a projected $755 million shortfall in next fiscal year's budget.

"This will generate critical revenue to fund our core commitments as a government, including public safety, education and economic development," Markell said. "Working together, this will also generate new revenue to our partners, Delaware's three (casinos)."

The format the of state's new sports betting system has still not been determined.

The bill allows for betting on single games, but it could be limited to parlay betting by the state's Supreme Court, which Markell has asked for guidance to determine which system best complies with that state's constitution.

Delaware had a sports lottery briefly in the 1970s and was grandfathered in — along with Oregon, Nevada and Montana — under a 1992 federal law that bans states from establishing sports gambling.

The state's three casinos will get less of a cut of non-racing revenue, but the addition of sports betting is predicted to more than offset the reduction. The state will get 45 percent of the revenue generated from sports and electronic gaming, reports Associated Press.

In return, the bill approved a commission that will study whether it's feasible to bring live table gaming to Delaware, something the casinos have been pushing for.

The bill has been opposed by several sports leagues and organizations, including the NFL and NCAA. NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn called sports wagering "a problem, not a solution" to the state's to budget problems.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement: "We expect that everyone involved in the administration of sports leagues — professional and college — will review today's action and evaluate its impact as other decisions are made by Delaware officials and the Delaware Supreme Court,"
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