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Court: Delaware sports betting would violate ban

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that sports betting in Delaware would violate a 1992 federal ban on such wagering, essentially halting the state's plans to start taking bets next month.
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A federal appeals court ruled Monday that sports betting in Delaware would violate a 1992 federal ban on such wagering, essentially halting the state's plans to start taking bets next month.The plan was opposed by the professional sports leagues and the NCAA, which claimed it violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, would harm their reputations and expose young people to gambling.Delaware Gov. Jack Markell had pushed for sports betting as a way to help resolve an unprecedented shortfall in state tax revenues and balance the state budget. Attorneys who argued the case for the state appeared stunned by the ruling.Markell told The Associated Press that his administration was reviewing its legal options but still preparing to offer betting on a limited basis."Obviously I'm disappointed, but the bottom line is that Delaware is still the only state east of the Mississippi that can offer this sports betting product on NFL games," Markell said."I would have preferred the single-game bets with point spreads on more sports, but we didn't get that," added Markell, admitting that sports betting won't be as big as it might have been.Delaware was one of four states exempted from the federal ban on sports betting because it once ran an NFL sports lottery in 1976 that required parlay, or multiple bets, on at least three games.The 1992 law restricts sports betting to the four states that met a deadline to sign up for it: Nevada, where Las Vegas sports books determine the odds for sporting events across the country; Delaware; Montana; and Oregon.But the leagues argued that the exemption does not allow Delaware to offer bets on single games, or on sports other than professional football.Speaking for a three-judge panel, Judge Theodore McKee said Monday that the betting plan as currently envisioned violates the federal ban. A written opinion explaining the judges' reasoning will be issued at a later date.Administration officials said they will later decide whether to appeal the ruling to the full appeals court, or to the U.S. Supreme Court.Lawrence Hamermesh, a professor of corporate and business law at Widener University, said pursuing an appeal would be difficult. The state's chances are slim because there was no split on the three-judge panel, and there is no broad impact from the ruling, he said."This is a one-off situation," said Hamermesh, who described the state's position as "pretty weak."The court heard almost two hours of argument from attorneys regarding the denial of an injunction that would have prevented the betting from beginning with the start of football season in September.But instead of ruling on the injunction, the appeals court turned directly to the league's claim that sports betting would violate the federal ban."We were hoping the court would rule on the merits," said Kenneth Nachbar, an attorney representing the NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball. Nachbar and NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson both said they were pleased with the ruling.During Monday's arguments, the judge questioned what would happen if the state began sports betting in September, then had it declared illegal by the district court several months later. Individual bettors would have lost hundreds or thousands of dollars on what essentially was an illegal state scheme, he said."What happens if you're wrong?" McKee asked Andre Bouchard, an attorney representing the state."Caveat emptor," Bouchard replied, citing the Latin admonition of "buyer beware."