DOVER, Del. -- State officials may have to run through the
NCAA and National Football League before they can score additional
revenue for Delaware through a sports betting lottery.
Representatives of the NFL and National Collegiate Athletic
Association visited Dover this week to lobby against Gov. Jack
Markell's proposal to reauthorize sports gambling in Delaware.
NCAA officials are threatening to ban all playoff games in
Delaware if the state legalizes sports betting, and NFL
representatives made their opposition known in a brief meeting with
Markell on Thursday.
"I welcomed them to Delaware and they told me that they hoped I
would reconsider my position," Markell said. "I told them I think
we're coming from different places."
Markell is defending the proposal as a way to bring much-needed
revenue into the state's general fund.
The proposed sports betting lottery is expected to generate
about $55 million for the cash-strapped state in its first year if
it clears the General Assembly.
By virtue of a brief and unsuccessful experiment with a sports
lottery in the late 1970s, Delaware is one of only four states,
along with Nevada, Montana and Oregon, grandfathered under a 1992
federal law that bans sports gambling.
Delaware's status as the only state east of the Mississippi
River that can offer sports betting could provide an economic
buffer against slot machine competition in neighboring Pennsylvania
The NFL, which has several teams in neighboring states, has long
opposed sports betting, saying it would tarnish the game's image
and could lure youngsters into gambling, though the lottery would
be restricted to people 21 and over.
And NCAA officials said a sports betting lottery would make
Delaware off-limits for any postseason championship events. NCAA
spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said NCAA policy prohibits the staging of
any session of an NCAA championship in any metropolitan area where
legal sports wagering is allowed.
The potential effect of the policy on Delaware is unclear. NCAA
playoff games there have been limited in recent years to University
of Delaware football games, the last being a 2007 matchup with
Delaware State University. The University of Delaware, a Division
I-AA school, also hosted the Division I men's lacrosse
championships in 1984 and 1986, and first-round lacrosse contests
State officials note that the sports betting proposal would
prohibit betting on Delaware teams. They argue that the NCAA's
position seems inconsistent and point to the annual Las Vegas Bowl
football game, and skiing championship events that have been held
"I don't know if it's retaliatory or just a bluff, but it
strikes me as a little overreaching on their part," said Markell's
chief of staff, Tom McGonigle.
McGonigle said the state has not ruled out a challenge to the
Osburn, the NCAA spokeswoman, said there has been no
inconsistency. She said the Las Vegas Bowl is not an NCAA event,
and a skiing event held in Nevada in 2004 took place before the
anti-sports wagering policy had been extended from men's basketball
to all NCAA sports.
Osburn said the decision to use Reno, Nev., as a site for this
year's West Regional skiing championships was "an administrative
oversight on our part."