NCAA Hypocritical’ on Gambling When It Comes to Delaware

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Philadelphia Inquirer Staff

The NFL, three other pro sports leagues and the NCAA are hypocritical for suing the state of Delaware to stop sports gambling while helping to promote gambling elsewhere, according to the Delaware House majority leader, Rep. Peter C. Schwartzkopf.

Schwartzkopf sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, with copies to the other four organizations, criticizing the lawsuit filed last week in federal district court in Wilmington. The Inquirer obtained a copy of the letter.

Delaware is working toward single-game sports betting for the start of the NFL season on Sept. 10 at its three racetrack casinos.

Major League Baseball, the NHL, NBA and the NCAA joined the NFL in the suit.

In the letter, Schwartzkopf criticizes the "blatant hypocrisy" of the leagues and the NCAA claiming a threat to the integrity of their contests while also entering business relationships with gambling interests.

The NFL could not be immediately be reached for comment.

The letter appears below:


July 28, 2009

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

I write this letter in response to the lawsuit the National Football League and other sports leagues filed against the State of Delaware concerning recent legislation reintroducing the sports lottery in Delaware. I was lead House sponsor of that legislation and write this letter in response.

The issue of Delaware expanding state sponsored gambling activities, such as sports betting, is an important one. For those of us who supported it, we sought to lighten the tax burden on Delawareans and help pay for core government services, like public safety and education. For those that oppose it, they often cite moral concerns and the potential for over reliance on a potentially volatile revenue source. While I have supported this expansion, I have great respect for those legislators and Delawareans who have taken the opposite view.

What I do not respect is the blatant hypocrisy of the professional sports leagues like the NFL that have now brought a lawsuit against Delaware. The lawsuit complains that legalized sports betting in Delaware will somehow undermine the integrity of their leagues. But the stance taken in these legal filings is belied by the close nexus between gambling and the leagues themselves. Thanks to the investigative reporting by the (Delaware) News Journal, we already have learned that the NFL receives millions from CBS, FOX, ESPN and others for broadcasting their games and those same broadcast companies openly and aggressively promote gambling on NFL games on their websites.

We also learned that the NCAA, while threatening our Delaware universities with taking away home playoff games if sports betting moves forward, sponsored the Las Vegas Bowl last year, housing its players in hotel casinos where bets are taken on games. Now, the NBA, the NHL and MLB have joined the fray as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Yet, the NBA permits those that have ownership interests in Las Vegas casinos with sports books to own NBA teams. Indeed, the Maloof family has ownership interests in both the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and the Sacramento Kings basketball team. News reports revealed that the NBA Board of Governors specifically authorized sports betting on NBA games at the casino. A similar arrangement exists and was also endorsed by the NBA between the Boston Celtics and the chairman and CEO of Harrah's Entertainment Inc.

Apparently, the NBA is not as concerned about the integrity of the league when their money (or their teams' owners' money) is at stake. Meanwhile, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, recently teamed up with George Maloof to host the league's annual award ceremony at the sky villa suites at the Palms Casino. The league's top players and "legends of the game" reportedly attended and participated in charity poker games. Apparently, a few lucky guests and players were also invited to an exclusive party at the Rain Nightclub located within the casino later that night.

The NHL's history with gambling does not end there. Former Philadelphia Flyer Rick Tocchet was accused of financing a nationwide gambling ring in 2006 and later pled guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling. He was sentenced to two years probation, but the NHL reinstated Tocchet, allowing him to coach young players less than two years after his conviction. So while NHL players and executives party in Las Vegas casinos where sports betting abounds, its lawyers are here in Delaware claiming the NHL's reputation is at stake if Delaware moves forward with sports betting.

Major League Baseball should also be more vigilant about policing its associations with gambling enterprises. Visitors to the new baseball stadiums this season have undoubtedly noticed ties between the teams and gambling interests. Visitors to the Mets' new CitiField can enjoy the game from the Caesars Club, courtesy of a partnership between the Mets and Harrah's Entertainment, the owner of Caesars in Atlantic City. Prefer the Yankees? New Yankees Stadium includes the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar, where fans can watch Rodriguez, Jeter and Sabathia while considering the short trip to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. Other MLB teams, including the Cubs and the Braves, have marketing partnerships with casinos. In the end, MLB should spend their resources on something other than paying lawyers to stop Delaware from legalizing and properly regulating something that happens every day in this country.

It is hard to imagine why moving forward with sports betting in Delaware will undermine the integrity of professional or college sports. Las Vegas has promoted sports betting for many years, so Delaware is not covering new ground here. When it comes to expanding state sponsored gaming, legitimate debate and discussion should continue among Delaware's elected representatives and its citizens. But the self-serving, hypocritical pronouncements and legal threats by these for-profit sports leagues that have sued Delaware should be rejected.


Peter C. Schwartzkopf

House Majority Leader

Delaware House of Representatives

cc: Major League Baseball

National Basketball Association

National Collegiate Athletic Association

National Hockey League

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