Supreme Court ruling may pave the way for full-scale sports betting in Delaware

John Carney

DOVER — The Supreme Court on Monday gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.

The justices voted 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that forbade state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.

Many states have hoped their cut of legalized sports gambling could help solve budget problems. Stock prices for casino operators and equipment makers surged after the ruling was announced.

Gov. John Carney said Monday that state officials are still reviewing the details of the decision, but “if it is permissible under the opinion, full-scale sports gaming could be available at Delaware’s casinos before the end of June.”

“When the Supreme Court took this case last year, the Delaware Lottery began preparing for the possibility that the court could overturn the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act,” he said. “In the coming days, the lottery office will consult with the Delaware Attorney General’s Office to more fully understand the details and impact of this decision on Delaware.

“Specifically, we will be looking at whether the opinion allows Delaware to offer full-scale sports gaming beyond parlay betting on National Football League games that was reinstituted in 2009.”

The ruling, in a case from New Jersey, creates an opening to bring an activity out of the shadows that many Americans already see as a mainstream hobby. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year, and one research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

Denis McGlynn

Denis McGlynn

Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Downs, said Monday he didn’t think that full-scale sports betting at the state’s casinos will be nearly the boon that many expect it to be.

“I think it’s important that everybody manage their expectations of this,” Mr. McGlynn said. “We started researching this a long time ago.

“People need to understand that in Las Vegas, where sports betting has been going on seemingly forever, that only 2 percent of their gambling revenues come from sports betting. So, it’s really not a big piece of their business.”

Mr. McGlynn added that all the other states will now be able to offer the same types of sports wagering that the casinos in Delaware can, so now people will now be able to stay home to place their bets.

Plus, straight sports betting, where a gambler can pick the winner of a single sports contest, is not nearly as lucrative as parlay wagering.

Mr. McGlynn said that Dover Downs currently has a 28 to 34 percent average hold on parlay bets.

However, an average hold on a straight bet is four-and-a-half, so it’s not nearly as lucrative of a business proposition.

Mr. McGlynn said that Dover Downs would have to do 8 to 10 times as much business (in sports betting) to stay where it’s at today.

“One final thing, many of the people who are engaged in this type of sports betting have been doing it illegally with a bookie or with off-shore betting,” he said. “When people bet like this their winnings are not getting taxed and they can get credit from a bookie.

“The expectations seem to be that people will migrate (to the casinos). I’m not seeing a big rush to create this new revenue source here in the state.

“Everybody can do the research on their own. Is it a nice thing to have? I suppose for the state it could be considered that. But really, at the end of the day, it’s not going to be a big deal for anybody.”

Franki Fantini, whose Dover-based company Fantini Research covers the gaming industry nationally, believes the First State is “ready to go with its program already in place” while other states must still undertake the process of legislation and authorization to enable sports wagering. Local casinos will benefit from having one more attraction on site for patrons, which keep them in place for more entertainment value and opportunity to spend money.

“There’s no question that Delaware will get the first bet advantage over Pennsylvania and Maryland, that’s for sure,” he said.

Mr. Fantini said he was surprised that the Supreme Court’s ruling was as sweeping as it was, but believed that changes were coming nonetheless.

“Attorneys who sat in on the discussions were impressed with the questions that the justices asked, and I think the general consensus was that the ruling was going to be in favor of New Jersey,” he said.

This article contains material from the Associated Press.

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