An attorney for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said the state was intent on moving forward and offering some form of sports betting despite yesterday's filing.
"After reviewing the latest challenge from the NFL and other sports leagues, it is clear some form of sports betting will go forward in Delaware," said Michael Barlow, Markell's legal counsel. "We are now left with the technical legal issue of the type of bets that can be offered."
Delaware House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, who wrote Delaware's sports-gambling bill, said in an interview - and in a letter to the sport organizations - that they could not have it both ways.
Schwartzkopf noted that the NCAA - which threatened to prevent Delaware teams from hosting playoff games - sanctions the annual Las Vegas Bowl college football game. The NCAA men's basketball tournament also benefits from office pools with money going to the winners.
The NBA is a party to the suit, but the Maloof family owns the Sacramento Kings - and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Harrah's Entertainment Inc. owns casinos, and its chairman and chief executive officer, Gary Loveman, has a small ownership interest in the Boston Celtics.
"Apparently," Schwartzkopf wrote, "the NBA is not as concerned about the integrity of the league when their money is at stake."
Indeed, USA Today quoted Joe Maloof in yesterday's issue as saying that well-regulated sports gambling would help prevent such problems as game-fixing.
"With all the different casinos in different states that have legalized gaming, why not legalize sports betting?" Maloof said, according to USA Today. "When it's regulated, it's safer. There's no hanky-panky."
Delaware state officials say the state reached a balanced $3.2 billion budget on June 30, with $54 million coming from sports betting at the three Delaware casinos.
"Delaware will not be intimidated by efforts to stop us from moving forward," said Joseph Rogalsky, spokesman for Markell, who was named in the lawsuit, along with Wayne Lemons, director of the Delaware State Lottery Office. "The sports lottery means more jobs for our state and more funds for our schools and other services."
Schwartzkopf said the NFL's TV contracts with several networks also punch holes in their legal argument because the Web sites of those networks refer to sports gambling or fantasy sports, which is akin to gambling.
The NFL disagreed.
"We are sensitive to interjecting ourselves into Delaware matters but the casino owners there plan to conduct betting on our individual games for their own benefit in violation of federal law," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail. "Representative Schwartzkopf's letter refers to our network partners. As we wrote Governor Markell and others in Delaware earlier this year, our contracts with our network partners include broad prohibitions on the use of any content that refers to betting on the outcome of our games during NFL telecasts on these networks as well as on their pre-game and post-game NFL shows. We also forbid through these contracts the use of our NFL shield and team marks tied to any betting scheme based on NFL game results during non-NFL programming.
"Our network partners know that we do not condone any NFL point spread references on other programming on the multiple platforms that they operate. But, just as we cannot prevent newspapers or TV and radio stations in Delaware from carrying point spreads or gambling information, we cannot exercise editorial control over those other non-NFL network platforms."
Delaware is getting some help from New Jersey.
Ray Lesniak, the New Jersey senator who filed a federal lawsuit in March against the U.S. Justice Department, seeking to overturn the ban on sports betting in other states, said he had sent a copy of his pleadings and research to the attorney for Delaware to help defend itself against the pro leagues' lawsuit.
"It's time for other states and Congress to take notice that [the federal ban] is hypocritical," Lesniak said yesterday.
Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.