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Delaware sports betting will be limited to NFL parlays

31 August 2009

The only legal sports betting to take place in the state of Delaware this fall will be on NFL games and the only type of wager available to bettors will be parlays.

That's what the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately decided on Monday in a 23-page opinion that said the state can "institute multigame (parlay) betting on at least three NFL games" without violating federal statutes aimed at restricting the expansion of gambling.

The opinion of the three-judge panel explained that it interpreted the language that exempted Delaware and three other states (Nevada, Montana and Oregon) from a 1992 federal ban on sports gambling as precluding any type of betting beyond what it had previously offered. In 1976, Delaware allowed bettors to place three-game parlay wagers on NFL games. The parlay system failed miserably and did not return the following season.

The ruling also said that because only NFL parlays had been previously offered by Delaware, no betting on other sports would be allowed.

Parlay bets are much different than single-game betting, which is what is offered in Nevada. A parlay forces the bettor to combine single wagers into one single bet. If one of those wagers does not win, the entire bet loses. Delaware will have to use a three-team minimum on the parlay bets, meaning in order to win, the bettor must pick correctly at least three games against the pointspread for what is typically a 6-to-1 payoff.

"It's not ideal, but it's better than having no sports betting at all," Dover Downs Hotel & Casino CEO Ed Sutor told Casino City last week. "Nevertheless, the state still has the legal authority to offer a sports lottery of parlays involving professional football games, which is a competitive advantage for our three racinos. We look forward to welcoming to Delaware visitors from all over the region to place parlay bets on professional football games."

Sutor fully admitted, however, that parlay betting will not nearly have the same economic impact for the state as single-game wagering would have had. For example, during the heart of the football season last year (Sept. through Nov.) Nevada sportsbooks won $58.5 million on single-game wagers, according to data provided by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Parlay card betting brought in just $13.8 million during that same time period.

Nonetheless, the three race tracks in the state – Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway and Casino and Delaware Park – plan on offering the parlay wagers for the NFL beginning Sept. 10. In fact, the tracks basically have no choice to try and attract football bettors since they collectively spent more than $10 million on their new sportsbooks facilities in anticipation of offering single-game wagers. Markell said in a statement that while the parlay system "does not provide the flexibility we had hoped for, Delaware is still the only state east of the Rocky Mountains that can offer a legal sports lottery on NFL football...We still believe this is an opportunity to create jobs and generate revenue."

Sutor indicated that he hopes that the state would accelerate the process for a bill that would bring table games to the state in order to make up for the latest setback to the sports-wagering bill.

"Table games draw exactly the same kind of demographic that the sportsbooks do and slot machines don't – young males," Sutor said. "In addition, we estimate that the table games would also create 800 jobs for the three venues. This is something that would really benefit everyone involved and if they set up a special session we could have things ready to go by April 1."

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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT