Hitting the headlines in the United States Friday afternoon was the news that four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA have launched litigation against the state of Delaware in a bid to block a new law liberalising sports betting in the state.
In a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Delaware, the sports bodies claimed the new law: "…..would irreparably harm professional and amateur sports by fostering suspicion and skepticism that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition."
Congress banned sports betting in 1992 with the esception of four states – Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon – that had already offered it. But the lawsuit argues that Delaware's plan to allow single-game betting would violate the state constitution because Delaware has never offered single-game betting before. The associations also claim that the law allows betting on all sports, going beyond the professional football betting program that constituted the state's brief failed experiment in 1976.
Led by the NFL, the suit was filed by Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and the NCAA.
A spokesman for Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Joe Rogalsky, said in a statement that the state had sought the advice of the Delaware Supreme Court, and had invited the NFL to sit down and share their concerns.
"They decided instead to sue," Rogalsky said.
NFL Vice President Joe Browne has a different perspective, saying that the league wrote to Markell on April 7, telling him the league would be willing to discuss ways to help close the state's budget gap – "short of using our games as betting vehicles."
According to Browne, Markell responded five weeks later "that he was signing legalization that day which, in effect, uses our games as betting vehicles."
In May this year the Delaware Supreme Court court ruled that the state law allowing sports betting didn't conflict with the state constitution, but the justices also noted: "….we cannot opine on the constitutionality of single game bets."
Rogalsky said the state of Delaware will "vigorously defend" its effort to raise funds for publicly-provide services and to improve the local economy. He explained that the NFL and the other leagues raised only general concerns regarding the integrity of their sports, and claimed that Delaware is attempting to address these concerns by working directly with experts in the private sector to help formulate regulations and procedures that will be utilised.
He promised that Delaware will adopt a "strong framework" aimed at ensuring the integrity of the sports on which wagers are placed.