The attempt by the U.S. national pro sports leagues and the NCAA to dislocate the state of Delaware's decision to allow lottery sportsbetting will be heard in a federal court on December 7th this year.
But an attempt by the leagues to impose an injunction stopping the implementation of the Delware decision before the NFL's September 10 season openers was turned down by U.S. District Judge Gregory M. Sleet this week. This means that Delaware's plan to begin single-game and parlay wagering will go ahead unless there is interference from any appeals procedure.
The newspaper USA Today reports that after denying the injunction, Sleet set a series of October deadlines related to the leagues' request for a summary judgment ruling on its lawsuit against the state, and scheduled a trial date of December 7.
"The state is moving full speed ahead with our plans to implement a sports lottery by the start of the NFL season," Michael Barlow, lead counsel for Delaware Governor Jack Markell's office, told USA Today. "The Delaware Supreme Court gave us permission to initiate a sports lottery and today's decision reaffirms that we can move forward."
At a hearing in Wilmington before Judge Sleet, lawyers hired by the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL and NCAA argued that Delaware's plan violated the federal ban against sports betting.
Kenneth Nachbar, the leagues' lead attorney, said his clients are evaluating their options, including appealing Sleet's decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
Sleet said the leagues had to prove one of three things for him to grant a summary judgement, and had failed in all:
* They did not show they were likely to prevail at trial. Sleet added it also was not clear if Delaware would prevail at trial.
* They did not show there would be irreparable harm to professional and college sports if action was not taken now. Sleet said the leagues' position was "ironic" given that – as attorneys for Delaware noted – a number of sports teams have sponsorship deals with casinos and several owners of sports teams also own gambling establishments.
* They did not show Delaware would not be irreparably harmed by the injunction. The judge said there was at least potential harm to the state because it is counting on millions of dollars in revenue from sports betting to help balance its budget.
University of Pennsylvania law school professor Tobias Barrington Wolff said the leagues could face a challenge if they appeal, especially since Sleet didn't see how the leagues could be harmed as the case moves towards trial.
"Basically, the district court balances hardships," Wolff said. "If the district court judge didn't see any harm (to warrant an injunction), it is probably going to be a tough appeal to win. They would have to claim that (the district court judge) underestimated the harm by allowing the lawsuit going forward without an injunction."
Delaware state officials also plan to offer betting on other sports, including MLB and NCAA football games.
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