Sports Leagues Challenge Extent of Delaware's Exemption

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America's major sports leagues, in new court papers, are challenging the state's contention that Congress intended to allow Delaware to expand its sports betting options.

In advance of Monday's showdown before the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, the leagues' lawyers filed a brief arguing that Delaware's exemption from a 1992 federal ban on sports betting did not give the state carte blanche to offer bets on single games or sports other than pro football.

In 1976, Delaware briefly had three football lottery games that let bettors make parlay bets on multiple National Football League contests. The federal ban said Delaware and three other states could have sports betting "to the extent that the scheme was conducted" between 1976 and 1990.

"Congress in no way gave Delaware free [rein] to conduct all forms of sports betting simply because it conducted some form of sports betting prior to [the federal ban]," the leagues' lawyers wrote in papers filed late Thursday with the appeals court. "If that were the case, Congress would have grandfathered entire states; instead it carefully drafted the exception to apply to specific 'schemes' previously conducted."

At stake Monday is the leagues' second attempt for an emergency injunction to halt Delaware's three racetrack casinos from opening sports books to more than parlay NFL bets on Sept. 1 -- 10 days from now. The leagues lost their injunction bid earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, but the appeals panel in Philadelphia agreed to hear the matter Monday on an expedited basis.
To prevail, the leagues must persuade the three-judge panel that Delaware intends to violate the federal ban, that pro and college sports would suffer irreparable harm and that it's in the public interest to halt Delaware now in advance of a trial, scheduled for Dec. 7 in Wilmington. The lawsuit against Gov. Jack Markell and state lottery director Wayne Lemons has been brought by the NFL, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletic Association.


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