House OKs retooled sports betting plan

A reworked sports betting bill passed the Delaware House of Representatives early Friday, greatly improving the odds that the First State will become the only state east of the Mississippi to allow legal gambling on sporting events.

An earlier version of the bill that would have authorized sports betting fell two votes short of a needed three-fifths majority on Tuesday. But the proposal, backed by Gov. Jack Markell as a means to address the state's fiscal crisis, was amended to address some concerns of the state's three racetrack/casinos.

"My administration worked with the leadership in the house and senate to get this done," Markell said in a prepared statement. "We never stopped fighting to do what was right for the taxpayers of Delaware."

Under the new proposal, the racetrack/casinos will eventually be allowed to conduct table games -- currently, only slot machines and other electronic gaming are allowed -- and will see a larger share of sports betting revenues than what was initially proposed.

The reworked bill passed the House 30-4. It still requires passage in the state Senate and Markell's signature to become law.

Markell said the current proposal bill will bring in an estimated $52 million in fiscal 2010, but added that could increase if table games are running by early next year, according to The News Journal of Wilmington. Markell is already proposing an 8 percent wage decrease for state workers as Delaware deals with budget woes.

Major sports leagues and the NCAA have opposed the proposal.

Delaware, which briefly experimented with a sports lottery in the 1970s, is one of four states grandfathered under a 1992 law that bars states from establishing legal sports betting. Montana, Oregon and Nevada are the others.