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Delaware Governor wants to legalize sports betting

12 March 2009

DOVER, Delaware -- As reported by ESPN the Magazine: "During his campaign for Delaware Governor last fall Jack Markell often hinted that, if elected, he'd support sports betting in his state. Now that he's got the job, Markell is done hinting.

"ESPN The Magazine has learned that sometime next week, according to a statehouse source, Markell will introduce a proposal which, for the first time in more than 30 years, makes gambling on sports legal east of the Mississippi River. The plan, which could be approved by the state legislature as early as April, would likely be operational come fall, just in time for the NFL season.

"Markell's proposal calls for a statewide sports lottery that only allows parlay bets. In a parlay, gamblers have to get two bets right in order to win. It's an idea that has been brewing in Delaware for a while, long before the economy imploded and the state found itself with a budget shortfall of $700M. In fact, a proposal to allow gambling on sports died in the state legislature last year, when then governor Ruth Ann Minner made it clear she'd veto a resulting bill.

"The newly elected Markell, who has spent the past several weeks listening to proponents of gambling as well its opponents, is much more of a pragmatist than a betting revolutionary. He hasn't been to Vegas in nearly 15 years and almost never hits the race track/casinos (called racinos) in his home state. But the way he sees it is this: Delaware already allows horse racing and slots. And with the state currently $700M in the hole, offering the Pats minus-six over the Jets when bettors come by to drop a nickel in the slots isn't amoral. As he told me a couple months ago, 'you can't really be half-pregnant.'

"Delaware, along with Nevada, Montana and Oregon, is one of four states that has long had sports betting laws in its books, exempting it from the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law which banned states from getting into the bookmaking business. While Montana and Nevada still support sports gambling and Oregon only recently shut down its sports lottery, Delaware hasn't toyed with it since a failed run during the 1976 NFL season..."

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