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Delaware Ruling A Major Setback for U.S. Sports Gambling...By Jay Graziani

The betting windows are open, but will anyone show up?

With the NFL season set to kick off tonight, Delaware racinos were set today to unveil a new state-of-the-art wagering platform to leverage the NFL's popularity as a bottom-line booster to the dismal state budget. Instead, officials now have truckloads of expensive equipment that are unlikely to provide anywhere near the amount of revenue, or the crowds, they had hoped for.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stuck a wrench in the cogs of the Delaware gambling operation by ruling that Delaware's bid to offer legalized sports betting violated federal law, and allowed the state only to offer parlay bets that include at least three teams (the first part of Delaware's saga is summarized here: While the state may still appeal the ruling, tonight's start to the NFL season makes it a moot point, at least for this year.

Optimists might see the glass as half-full, considering that we now finally have legal sports betting east of the Mississippi. One small step for Delaware, one giant leap for legalized sports betting, so to speak. But the unfortunate restictions placed upon Delaware racinos by the Court make the state's chances of success slim at best, and this will have negative repercussions throughout the growing movement to legalize sports gambling.

Just two days ago, the sports gabmling community finally got a glimpse of what state-run betting looks like, and it ain't a pretty sight. Delaware will offer three "types" of wagers: parlays, 6-point teasers, and 10-point "super teasers", each requiring a minimum of three teams. Parlay cards will be limited to $2-$100 bets, but the state will also take "Off the Board" parlays with a $5 minimum and a $3000 maximum. "Off the Board" bets use updated lines from the electronic tote board, as opposed to the pre-printed parlay cards, but offer slightly lower payouts.

Odds, as reported by The Dover Post, are as follows. Corresponding payouts from offshore sports book are provided in parentheses for comparison.

Parlay (3 to 10 teams):
3-team: +450 (+600 at
10-team: 798-to-1 (642-to-1)

Teaser (3 to 12 teams):
3-teams: +180 (+180)
12-team: 62-to-1 (70-to-1)

Super Teaser (4 to 12 teams):
4-teams: -500 (+136)
12-team: 12-to-1 (13-to-1)

"Off the Board" Parlays (3 to 8 teams):
3-teams: +400 (+600)
8-teams: 158-to-1 (175-to-1)

The first thing that should be noticed is that Delaware's odds are worse pretty much across the board when compared to offshore sportsbooks. And, as government is frequent to do, they really sock it to their customers on the 3-team parlay and 4-team "easy money" super teaser, likely to be the highest-volume plays. Considering that sportsbooks already take a healthy "rake" on parlays and teasers, lowering the odds even more makes the games much less attractive.

Expect the new Delaware sports books to rake in a decent handle the first few weekends, as the curiousity of legal East Coast sports betting brings some interested spectators to sit alongside the die-hard football fans. And the racinos might see a solid boost in revenue during the NFL playoffs and Superbowl, if the whole operation manages to last that long. And that's a big "if".

Unfortunately, the prospects for Delaware don't look good - and that's a shame. Sports gambling was beginning to gain some traction in the U.S., with the conservative political faction silenced in the most recent elections and the "Great Repression" forcing state governments to be creative in looking for new revenue generators. A lot was riding on Delaware's shoulders, and the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that restricted wagers to only NFL parlays took a lot of wind out of the sails of the pro-gambling movement. Complete failure of the Delaware operation will force many advocates to rethink their position and abandon the fight to legalize sports betting in the U.S.

In Delaware, it won't take long for the novelty to wear off and regular players to realize they are better off betting with their "local" bookie or offshore joint. Delaware tried this scheme before, and it collapsed almost right off the bat. Why should we expect anything different this time around? Until state-run operations can compete on level ground with illegal bookies and offshore sportsbooks, any legalized gambling in the U.S. is bound to fail miserably.

Jay Graziani

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