Judge to Hold Private Conference on Sports Betting Suit

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By CRIS BARRISH, The News Journal

Delaware's chief federal judge will hold a private teleconference today over a request by the nation's major sports leagues for an injunction to stop crucial aspects of Delaware's sports betting plan before they start.

Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet called the conference for 2 p.m. after organizations representing college sports and professional football, basketball, hockey and baseball sought a preliminary injunction Tuesday. The public and the press are not permitted to listen in on the call with Sleet and attorneys representing the leagues and the state, the judge's office said this morning.

The leagues sued the state Friday, arguing that Delaware's plan for single-game bets on pro football and any bets on other sports violated a 1992 federal law against gambling on sports. Because the state hopes to begin offering bets this September and the lawsuit is not expected to be decided by then, the leagues sought the injunction to stop Delaware now.

Delaware, which briefly allowed parlay bets on pro football in 1976, is one of four states exempted from the federal prohibition. The statute says those states can have sports betting "to the extent'' they previously conducted such wagering.

In court papers, the leagues said they do not oppose parlay bets on football at Delaware's casinos because that's what Delaware offered in 1976.

If Sleet decides to hold a hearing on the injunction request, the leagues must demonstrate that Delaware's plan violates the law and that they will suffer serious harm if Delaware offers the disputed wagering before the court case is decided. The leagues have argued that sports betting harms the integrity of their athletic contests.

Gov. Jack Markell's office did not immediately comment on today's hearing.

Kenneth J. Nachbar, a Wilmington attorney representing the leagues, said he set up the call as Sleet directed.

"I can only guess what we're be talking about, but the obvious thing will be scheduling and whether he's going to hear our request for an injunction,'' Nachbar said.

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