Ambitious Delaware Might Launch Sports Betting Before New Jersey

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Delaware sports betting

New Jersey may not be the first state outside of Nevada to offer sports betting, after all.

Officials in Delaware confirmed this week that the existing landscape allows the state to enter the industry almost immediately. The Department of Finance and Attorney General Matt Venn agree: DE sports betting can begin without more legislation.

Here’s part of the statement:

…there are no legal obstacles to moving forward with full-scale sports betting in Delaware, including head-to-head-betting, which permits single-game wagering. Under state law passed in 2009, Delaware may authorize betting on professional and collegiate sports, with the exception of games involving Delaware-based teams.

Thanks to that law (and the Supreme Court sports betting ruling on Monday), it’s all systems go for the small state with big gambling ambitions. Delaware and New Jersey are now drag racing toward the first regulated sports betting industries in the mid-Atlantic.

According to a report from Delaware Online, the state could be ready to roll as early as the first week in June. If that comes to pass, the three DE casinos might be taking bets before the neighboring Atlantic City casinos.

Status of DE sports betting

Delaware is one of a few states that had some form of PASPA exemption.

Nevada was the only one allowed to take bets against the point spread of individual games, though. The others, including Delaware, were allowed to offer some sort of speculation that stopped short of single-game betting. In Washington and Montana, it’s football squares. For Oregon and Delaware, it’s parlay cards.

The DE Lottery first began offering three-team NFL parlays in 1976. The idea lasted just one unsuccessful season before being pulled, but the state rekindled the product almost a decade ago. It’s fairly successful nowadays. Parlay betting funneled around $9 million to the state last year, and the casino and horse racing industries also share in the revenue.

We hear a lot about the NJ sports betting case, but it was actually Delaware that first tried to rebel against PASPA. In 2009, lawmakers passed legislation directing the lottery to promulgate rules for expanded sports betting. Those regulations are in place, but a federal appeals court ruled the state could not offer single-game tickets under PASPA.

That federal ban is gone now, and Delaware is on the launchpad.

Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger issued this statement:

Following Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and consultation with the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, we are confident that Delaware has the legal and regulatory authority to authorize sports gaming in Delaware. The Delaware Lottery has had plans in place for months, and we will begin training lottery and casino staff early next week. We will continue to provide public updates as we prepare to launch full-scale sports gaming in Delaware next month.

New Jersey or Delaware?

At this point, it looks like one of these two states will be the first to join Nevada in the US sports betting industry.

As the poster child for PASPA repeal, New Jersey has been the odds-on favorite for some time. Even prior to Monday, Monmouth Park said it could be taking bets within two weeks of a favorable SCOTUS decision. It wasn’t bluffing. The court decided the case on May 14, and Monmouth immediately targeted May 28 for launch.

Regulators want operators to hold their horses, though. Unlike its neighbor to the south, NJ does not have comprehensive regulations in place just yet. That shouldn’t take long, but it appears it has to happen before any bookmaking can occur. Senate President Steve Sweeney provided an updated timeline, and regulators have warned operators against acting before they say go.

It looks like June 7 will be lawmakers’ earliest opportunity to approve final legislation/regulations for New Jersey.

At least one Delaware stakeholder thinks his state will win the race to market. Dover Downs CEO Denis McGlyn says he’s already working on hiring more staff to support the new operation. “I think we’re going to beat New Jersey to the punch,” he said, “but they won’t be far behind.”

It’s hard to predict that “Delaware will win” with any certainty, but McGlyn’s property does handicap odds for a living. Expect both states to have sports betting sometime before the summer heat wave sets in.