States Likely to Begin Legalizing Sports Betting in 2009

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

With the economy in dire straits and individual states feeling the worst of it, the likelihood of at least one or more states legalizing sports betting is more a reality than ever in 2009.

One source close to Gambling911.com suggested that there were 7 states seriously considering this objective.

Perhaps the most likely would be Delaware.

"Before Maryland sees a penny from slot machines, Delaware may up the ante in the regional race for gaming revenues by approving sports betting at its three racinos as soon as this year," writes Alan Brody of the Southern Maryland Newspapers Online.

Sports betting is expected to be a hot topic when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 13, a day before Maryland lawmakers begin their 90-day session in Annapolis. Gov.-elect Jack A. Markell has signaled that he will sign legislation to authorize wagering at tracks in Wilmington, Dover and Harrington, if the legislature passes it.

"I don't think it has to do with what other states around us are doing," said Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman Adams Jr. (D), who lives about 15 miles from Midway Slots and Simulcast in Harrington. "It's based primarily on what it would return in benefits if it's passed as far as the finances."

Delaware will have an easier time than most states getting around a federal law prohibiting sports betting.  The state has a "grandfather" exemption because it tinkered with a sports lottery in the 1970s, prior to passage of the current prohibition in 1992. Nevada is currently the only state that allows legalized sports betting while Oregon and Montana are two other states exempt from the federal ban.

States would likely employ means of placing bets online.  Even a state the size of Delaware will benefit from the convenience of online gambling from home.  The Internet gaming sector is estimated to be worth over $100 billion worldwide with growth expected to hit $144 billion in 2011.

Delaware, like most states, has forecast a grim fiscal forecast for 2009. 

"Delaware is highly exposed to this recession, and I unfortunately don't see any reasons to think that it's going to be an above-average performer," Robert Dye, senior economist for PNC Financial Services Group, told the Delaware News Journal.

That newspaper reports that at the end of 2007, Delaware's unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent, with fewer than 16,000 unemployed Delawareans looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In November, according to the most recent data available, more than 25,000 Delawareans were out of work, a record number, and the state's unemployment rate stood at 5.6 percent.

Another state exploring the option of legalized sports betting was Delaware's neighbor New Jersey, another state devastated by the downturn in the economy.

It's own casino Mecca, Atlantic City, has experienced a major blow in recent months.  There are many who believe sports betting could help to drive back revenues. 

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a bill sponsor and major advocate of sports betting, said last spring he has asked the Corzine administration to file a lawsuit challenging the 1992 federal ban.

"If it chooses not to take up this cause, I will file suit myself on behalf of plaintiffs with standing to challenge the federal law,'' he said. Lesniak believes the federal law made New Jersey and 45 other states "second class citizens" by preventing them from allowing sports gaming parlors.

New Jersey is reported to have a budget shortfall of 12.3 percent.

"At a time when New Jersey is working to overcome chronic revenue shortfalls and the effects of a national economic recession, we need to identify new revenue sources," Lesniak said last month. "Increased tax revenue generated by sports wagering could be used to fund a wide variety of worthy programs which might otherwise have to be eliminated given the State's bleak budgetary picture. Giving states the authority to conduct legal sports wagering would be a good complement to any economic stimulus packages being considered by our leaders in Washington."

"Unfortunately, the only thing that the federal ban on sports betting has accomplished is to drive these activities underground," said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. "We know that a huge sum of money is spent - illegally - on sports wagering every year in New Jersey and around the nation. We need to bring these activities out of the back rooms and into the light of day, where they can be regulated by state gaming authorities and protected from manipulation and dishonesty."

"Watch New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Florida," our Gambling911.com source affirmed.  "Things are going to get mighty interesting in 2009."

Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher


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