Sports seek injunction vs. Delaware

Updated: July 28, 2009, 11:44 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA asked a federal judge Tuesday for a preliminary injunction to prevent Delaware from implementing its sports betting plan.

With the motion, filed in federal court in Delaware, the leagues provided declarations from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA commissioner David Stern outlining their fears of how their sports would be affected.

The leagues argued that Delaware's sports betting would result in harms "that cannot be remedied by subsequent monetary damages."

Congress banned sports betting in 1992 while allowing it in four states -- Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon -- that had already been offering it. The leagues and NCAA argue that Delaware's plan to allow single-game betting would violate the legislation because Delaware has never offered single-game betting before.

Under the 1992 law, they argued, a state like Delaware may only reintroduce the kind of sports betting that it had offered between 1976 and 1990. They also argued that Delaware's plan is illegal because it allows betting on all sports, going beyond the professional football betting program that constituted the state's brief failed experiment in 1976.

The plaintiffs, which include Major League Baseball and the NHL, asked the judge to prevent any sports betting plan that allows single-game betting as well as any betting on sports other than pro football.

Michael Barlow, legal counsel to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, said in a statement: "After reviewing the latest challenge from the NFL and other sports leagues, it is clear some form of sports betting will go forward in Delaware. We are now left with the technical legal issue of the type of bets that can be offered. The NFL has had months to bring this case and chose to wait, so I am not sure it is fair to make everyone scramble to resolve these issues before the season starts."

State officials hope to have the sports betting in place for this year's NFL regular season in September.

In his declaration, Goodell says the spread of sports betting, including Delaware's plan, threatens the integrity and public confidence in NFL games.

When gambling is freely permitted, he said, "normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalty flags and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving and game-fixing."

"State sponsorship of sports gambling also trades unfairly on the property and goodwill of the NFL," he added.

Stern of the NBA made similar points, saying that missed baskets and referees' calls will be seen through a "prism of the impact on the betting line," rather than team and individual performances.

The latest filings came a few days after the leagues and NCAA filed a lawsuit challenging the state's plan.

Also Tuesday, Delaware's House majority leader said that the NFL and other leagues were engaging in "blatant hypocrisy," because of a host of connections between pro sports and gambling entities.

In a letter to Goodell, obtained by The Associated Press, Democrat Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, the lead House sponsor of legislation bringing sports betting back to Delaware, mentioned:

• The annual Las Vegas Bowl college football game.
• The Maloof family, which owns both the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
• A marketing and promotional partnership between the New York Mets baseball team and casino company Harrah's Entertainment at the Mets' new ballpark, CitiField.
• The NHL holding its annual awards ceremony at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
• Promotion of gambling on NFL games on the Web sites of networks that broadcast the games. Schwartzkopf's spokesman cited point spreads and game picks made on the sites.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail that the league's contracts with its broadcast carriers prohibit references to betting on the outcome of games during NFL telecasts.

"Our network partners know that we do not condone any NFL point spread references on other programming on the multiple platforms that they operate," McCarthy said. "But, just as we cannot prevent newspapers or TV and radio stations in Delaware from carrying point spreads or gambling information, we cannot exercise editorial control over those other non-NFL network platforms."

In a statement, the NCAA said that it does not sponsor or administer any postseason bowl games in the Division I Bowl Championship Subdivision.

"Our policy does not allow NCAA championships in the state of Nevada or any other state where sports betting is allowed," the NCAA said.

The other leagues did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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