The US Supreme Court has ruled against an appeal by the state of Delaware to expand its sports-betting lottery beyond professional football games, dashing the hopes of the state’s three slot parlours to add full-on sports betting to their intra-state offering.
Earlier, Delaware governor Jack Markell and the regional gambling industry had joined to appeal to the higher court (see previous InfoPowa report), which made its ruling without comment.
Markell opined that the state had been denied a chance to argue the merits of having a broader system of sports betting.
“The result is unfortunate but not surprising, since only a small fraction of appeals to the Supreme Court are actually heard,” Markell said in a statement.
The appeal was made against a federal appeals court decision last year limiting Delaware to parlay betting on the National Football League, which took issue with the state’s ambitions to broaden the action into single-game bets on professional and collegiate sports.
In the earlier case, the appeals court ruled that Delaware could only have a sports lottery that was similar to the parlay betting on NFL games originally offered by the state in 1976. Delaware is one of four states exempted from a 1992 federal ban on sports betting because they had some form of sports betting on the books before the ban was introduced.
The decision could complicate a similar move by New Jersey, which is also challenging the federal sports betting ban in court, claiming it infringes on the constitutional rights of individual states. The politicians behind the New Jersey initiative want Atlantic City’s 11 casinos to be in a competitive position by offering sports betting.
The Casino Association of New Jersey has so far declined to comment on the Supreme Court ruling in the Delaware case, but State Sen. Ray Lesniak, who filed New Jersey’s sports betting suit, said he saw reasons to be optimistic.
“I'm glad they lost,” Lesniak said of Delaware. “I'm glad, because their challenge was based on an interpretation of the law. We are challenging it because we believe it’s unconstitutional.”
Lesniak added that Delaware rejected New Jersey’s offer to help fight the federal ban on constitutional grounds.
“We did ask them — we wrote a letter to them — asking [them] to call the existing law unconstitutional, because that would help both Delaware and New Jersey. But they wanted it all for themselves,” Lesniak said.
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