According to a report from the Associated Press news agency, anti-gambling Republican Senators from Arizona and Utah have involved themselves in the affairs of Delaware state, which recently passed legalization to permit sports betting.
Senators Jon Kyl and Orrin Hatch have apparently written to US Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to investigate the legality of the new Delaware law. Senator Kyl's close questioning of Holder on his position on gambling was noted during the AG's nomination hearings earlier this year.
The letter from the duo also asks the AG to defend a federal anti-sports betting law that New Jersey politicians are currently challenging in the courts.
Both the new Delaware sportsbetting law and the New Jersey challenge "…threaten to greatly expand sports gambling and undermine the integrity of our national pastimes," wrote Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona in a letter dated Monday.
At issue in both cases is the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which banned sports gambling but grandfathered four states: Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who proposed sports betting to help solve a shortfall, signed legalization authorizing it this year. State officials hope to have the sports lottery in place for this year's NFL regular season in September.
Hatch and Kyl, both longtime gambling opponents, say that although Delaware is grandfathered from the '92 law, its plan to allow single-game betting would violate the legalization because such betting was never available in any state. Delaware Lottery Director Wayne Lemons confirmed Tuesday that the state's brief 1970s sports lottery did not offer such bets.
The senators wrote that the 1992 law authorises the Justice Department to intervene to prevent a state from expanding sports betting beyond what was offered before the law took effect.
"It is our hope that the Department of Justice will monitor closely the situation in Delaware to ensure the state's compliance with federal law," the two Senators wrote in their correspondence with Holder.
The NFL opposes the sports lottery, and Markell spokesman Joe Rogalsky told Associated Press: "Along with their litigation threats, we suspect this letter is part of the NFL's continued effort to stop Delaware from moving forward with its sports lottery. Delaware is committed to operating the sports lottery in compliance with federal law and the Delaware Constitution, which is why the governor asked for and received a Delaware Supreme Court advisory opinion allowing us to move forward."
Meanwhile, in neighboring New Jersey, politicians fear that Delaware's sports betting threatens the Garden State's casino and horse racing industries. In March, New Jersey Democratic State Senator Ray Lesniak, along with an online gambling association and others, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department challenging the 1992 law
This month, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine formally joined the lawsuit, filing a motion in the case arguing that the ban puts New Jersey at an economic disadvantage because it is denied a revenue stream allowed to the four grandfathered states. Corzine has called the law "fundamentally unfair."
In the latest developments on New Jersey, the Department of Justice has opposed Governor Corzine's move to join the Lesniak action as a plaintiff, arguing that the governor lacks the standing or interest to intervene.
"The Constitutional claims that the Governor seeks to advance do not belong to him, they belong to the state of New Jersey," the DOJ argues in its Brief in Opposition, which goes on to claim that the governor lacks a "congnisable interest."
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