Delaware Will Start Accepting Sports Betting Action On Tuesday, June 5
First, there was the fight against the federal sports betting ban in the Supreme Court, then, after victory was won in that arena, the race to become the first state to open a legal sportsbook was on. It looks like the so called “First State” has won that race.
At 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 5, the state of Delaware can say that it is the undisputed winner in that sprint to the finish. Delaware Park, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and Harrington Raceway & Casino (all racinos, or horse racing tracks that also have some general gaming space on their floors for table games, cards, slot machines and the like) will be offering their sportsbook services to all bettors looking to lay down some cold hard cash. All the major professional sports plus soccer, golf and even auto racing will have action, which is a pretty big step for the state as it attempts to establish itself as one of the East Coast’s major gambling centers.
Delaware was one of just four in the country that was grandfathered in under the longstanding Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which was just overturned a little more than three weeks ago by virtue of a 6-3 majority decision by the US Supreme Court. Accordingly, Delaware’s state-run lottery system offered parlay bets on the NFL since 2009 (with the requirement being that bettors had to pick the winner in at least three consecutive games to qualify to win). The NFL lotto product proved to be a highly popular one among players, as Delaware residents wagered just about $46 million being bet on pro football in 2017 alone – that’s a substantial amount considering the constraints placed on sports wagering in the US generally and even on the First State more specifically.
However, as previously mentioned, all those prohibitions were lifted when the highest court in the land declared PASPA to be unconstitutional for its violations of the 10th Amendment’s states’ rights principle, making a way for all 50 states to stake their own claim regarding future legalization and regulation for sports betting. Delaware, as one of the states that was technically exempted from PASPA’s nationwide ban on sports wagering, had a massive lead in the race to get new regulations passed through its legislature, and lawmakers there wasted no time doing just that. Come Tuesday afternoon, single-game wagers will be able to be made by players on all sport events except those featuring teams from Delaware itself, and that really isn’t a huge deal-breaker, as there aren’t too many prominent teams in the state also known as “The Small Wonder.”
What’s more, the plans for Tuesday are just a foretaste of what could be coming soon. The state’s Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General are in agreement that there is no legal issue with Delaware moving forward in its goal of offering a fully fledged sports betting menu, even under existing state law. That could shave off even more time for the state, as competitors will need to scramble to pass newer, more expansive gambling laws or go through the length amendment or revision process for their sports betting laws already on the books.
“Delaware has all necessary legal and regulatory authority to move forward with a full-scale sports gaming operation, and we look forward to next week's launch," Delaware Gov. John Carney wrote in a general release to media representatives on Thursday. “We're hopeful that this will bring even more visitors into Delaware to see firsthand what our state has to offer."
Other Eastern states are likely to offer sports betting in the near future as well, though none so soon as Delaware. This roster includes Mississippi (which stealthily revised a fairly permissive daily fantasy sports bill to include provisions for legal sports betting in 2017), Pennsylvania (which preempted the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision with what is probably the most expansive sports betting legislation outside of Nevada) and West Virginia (which epically defied the pro sports leagues demands for usurious “integrity fees”).
New Jersey, the state that actually did most of the fighting in the trenches against the pro leagues, the NCAA, big time players in the Las Vegas casino cartels and pearl-clutching do-gooders of the “think of the children!” type, aimed to be the first state to offer sports betting at its racetracks in time for Memorial Day. However, that plan fell through when the state Senate proposed a companion regulatory bill to the one from the legislature’s lower house that would have banned any would be sportsbook operator from securing a license in the event that they went ahead and accepted bets prior to regulatory measures being finalized.
While the Garden State may have been edged out by Delaware on the home stretch of the race to roll out legal state-sanctioned sportsbooks in sports betting states, but NJ is not expected to be too late in arriving to the party. The aforementioned New Jersey Senate regulatory bill will be put to the vote on June 7, and – if passed as expected – then sports betting will be up and running in short order soon thereafter.