Governor to reconsider his original legislation

Opposition to a proposal by Delaware governor Jack Markell to legalise sportsbetting in the state has caused the governor to reconsider his original legislation, which envisaged up to three more slot-machine and sports betting casinos in Delaware and allowed sports betting at up to 10 non-casino venues, such as sports bars.

The opposition comes from the existing three land casinos in the state, which have a state-granted monopoly on gambling in Delaware, and have pushed for sports betting for some time. However, they have lobbied heavily against Markell's proposal because it includes a provision for the state to take a larger share of casino revenue.

Markell also ran into a brick wall with the state Supreme Court, because his original proposal, submitted for a judicial opinion on its constitutionality, had subsequently been replaced by another bill.

In a letter to the governor last week, Chief Justice Myron Steele noted that the legislation the governor asked the court to consider has been replaced with a substitute bill, and that normally the court was not asked to opine on legislation until it had passed through the legislature and awaited only the governor's signature.

"On behalf of the justices, it appears that your request ... has become moot," Steele wrote.

Governor Markell's substitute bill reauthorising a sports lottery and calling for the three existing casinos to pay a collective annual sports betting license fee of $4.5 million was scheduled for a House vote this week, but faces opposition.

Due to an unsuccessful experiment with a sports lottery in the late 'seventies, Delaware is one of only four states, along with Nevada, Montana and Oregon, grandfathered under a 1992 federal law that bans sports gambling. Officials say Delaware's status as the only state east of the Mississippi River that can offer sports betting could provide an economic buffer against slot machine competition in neighbouring Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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