You Wanna “LEGALLY” Bet On The Ravens …..

March 13, 2009 |

You wanna bet on the Ravens throughout the 2009 season?  Better yet, would you like to make your wager legally?  There is a chance you’ll be able it very soon, in Delaware.


Yes, you read it correctly ….. DELAWARE.


I wonder if the Ravens or Orioles ever imagined a legal sportsbook could be in their very own backyard.  Delaware is truly considering the possibility.  And, with Delaware Park less than 70 miles from Baltimore, the Ravens and Orioles would be on the heels of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers, as professional sports franchises within close proximity to legalized sports betting.


Here’s the deal …..


Prior to last November’s election, Delaware gubernatorial candidate, Jack Markell, campaigned on a platform that included the legalization of sportsbook or sports betting, in the First State.  And, as Governor, he’s delivering on his promise.


It’s said we learn something new everyday.  Well, until yesterday, I didn’t know that federal law prohibits sports betting in all but 4 states.  In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which guarantees states cannot legally allow gambling on professional or college sporting contests.


The loophole to this law is when Congress passed the legislation, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware had sports betting “on the books.”  Thus, these 4 states were granted exemptions (ie – “grandfathered in”) to the ban.


Of these states, Nevada has been the only jurisdiction to embrace sports betting as a chief source of governmental revenue.  However, Delaware actually experimented with forms of sports gambling, until 1976.  And, if Governor Markell gets his way, they’ll be back in the GAME very soon.


Early next week, Governor Markell is expected to introduce a proposal to allow sports betting to resume, after a 30 year absence.  Yep, he’s making good on his promise and many lobbyists and political pundits think Markell is gonna get his way. If I know Delawareans, he will.


In fact, this is exactly what I appreciate about politics, in Delaware.  There is no sales tax – very low property tax – and slot machines have been a staple for more than a decade.  So, as Maryland continues to spin its wheels with the prospect of slot machines, Delaware continues to build on its respective gaming market.


Is Governor Markell practicing a unique strategy?  Perhaps.  Think about it ….. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey already allow slot machine gaming, and Maryland is primed to join them.  Yet, Delaware is set to offer a form of gaming that can’t even be found in Atlantic City.


Hmmm ….. perhaps, the good Governor is just trying to protect the interests of his constituents.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve visited Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Midway @ Harrington to play the one-armed bandits.  And, trust me, you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting a car with Maryland tags, in any of these parking lots.


This sports betting proposal may be a tangible, strategic step in an effort aimed at keeping Marylanders at the Delaware casinos – even as the first slot machines hit the floor, at Arundel Mills.  If this is part of a “grand plan”, I certainly understand.


I would be interested to know how much money leaves the pockets of Marylanders, in Delaware casinos, annually.  Regardless of the amount, I’m certain it helps in chipping away at the $700 million deficit.  And, the sports betting proposal is aimed squarely at this deficit.


One school of thought is if Delaware approves the proposal and sports betting resumes, there may be a residual, adverse effect on casinos is Atlantic City.  Admittedly, I’m not a devout gambler and I don’t bet on sports.  My experiences in Atlantic City are limited.  So, I don’t think I can provide an accurate assessment.


However, without table games, I would assume Delaware casinos won’t put a huge dent in the A.C. coffers.  Additionally, most sports betting is underground and for convenience sake, it’s likely to remain that way.  Think about it, if you’re living in Canton and betting with a local bookie, you’re unlikely to make the drive to Delaware Park for the sake of making your wager legally, right?


However, the entire concept of legalized sports betting brings me back to Baltimore’s pro sports franchises, and specifically, the Ravens.  The NFL has been reluctant to do ANYTHING official, as it regards a presence in Las Vegas.  Many think this is directly due to sports betting, and based on factors like population, I think a raised suspicious eye is appropriate.


Las Vegas is larger (by population) than nearly half of the NFL cities.  You didn’t know that, huh?  Yep, it’s bigger than Atlanta, Kansas City, Cleveland, Miami, Oakland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Buffalo and Green Bay.  Say what you will, but why does the NFL avoid Las Vegas?


I would assume it’s directly tied to sports betting.  In fact, in regard to a recent query about sports betting and the prospective Delaware proposal, NFL spokesman, Greg Aiello, stated “Our policy on this issue has been consistent for decades.  We have been an active proponent of federal and state legislation that prohibits the spread of legal sports gambling.  We do not want our games used as bait.”


While I would agree the NFL desires no direct ties to legalized sports betting, I doubt their braintrust sits around on Sunday and hopes people abstain from betting on games.  In fact, many think the “NFL Injury Reports” exist primarily to bring a sense of integrity to wagering on respective games.

While the NFL will not openly hold hands with the ‘Vegas sportsbooks, you can bet they’re as fond of and dependent upon their desert dollar domain, as Tony Soprano is of his latest gumar.  Dirty little secrets are just that …..


To compound the lure of sports betting, in Delaware, Governor Markell is suggesting that he’ll move to avail the convenience to sports bars, taverns and clubs, as well.  And, he hopes to do this by the start of the 2009 NFL season.


So, I’ll ask again ….. does this have an effect on Baltimore?  Does it in any way compromise the Ravens, who will be around the corner from legalized sports betting?  How about the bars and clubs that depend on Sunday NFL action?  Will fans drive 45 minutes to watch the games and OPENLY BET ON THEM?


Personally, I think this does serve as a potential problem for business owners and state officials.  Delaware will be offering a legal service Maryland cannot provide.  And, people love to gamble.  Meanwhile, Maryland is still trying to seat their first slot machines.


By the time the first Maryland casino opens, Delaware might be rendering them obsolete.  And, if Delaware eventually gets table games, could it be GAME OVER for Maryland and neighboring states?  Delaware has a congressional advantage, and they’re using it.


If I’m a Maryland official, I’m watching the Delaware situation very closely.  Perhaps, Rowdy Roddy Piper said it best, “As soon as you get the answer, I change the question.”


And, it looks like Governor Markell has indeed changed the question ……