WASHINGTON -- The NFL joined the three other major professional sports leagues and the NCAA in suing Delaware on Friday, seeking to block the state from implementing sports betting.
Delaware's sports betting plan "would irreparably harm professional and amateur sports by fostering suspicion and skepticism that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition," the leagues and the NCAA say in a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Delaware.
Congress banned sports betting in 1992 but grandfathered four states -- Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon -- that already had offered it. But the lawsuit argues that Delaware's plan to allow single-game betting would violate the legislation because the state has never previously offered single-game betting.
Under the '92 law, the leagues and the NCAA said, a state like Delaware may only reintroduce sports betting if it had been conducted between 1976 and 1990.
The NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and NCAA also argue 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.
Joe Rogalsky, a spokesman for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, said in a statement that the state's sports betting plan "will help pay for our core government services like our teachers and police and will also create new jobs in our state."
Rogalsky also said that the state invited the NFL, which has led the effort against Delaware's plans, to sit down and share their concerns.
"They decided instead to sue," Rogalsky said.
NFL vice president Joe Browne said the league is sensitive to economic issues in Delaware and other states. He said the NFL wrote to Markell on April 7, telling him the league would be willing to discuss ways to help close the state's budget gap -- "short of using our games as betting vehicles." According to Browne, Markell responded five weeks later "that he was signing legislation that day which, in effect, uses our games as betting vehicles."
In his statement, Rogalsky also noted that the state asked for an advisory opinion from the Delaware Supreme Court. In May, that court ruled that the state law allowing sports betting didn't conflict with the state constitution, but the justices also said, "We cannot opine on the constitutionality of single game bets."
Delaware officials hope to have the sports betting in place for the start of the NFL regular season in September.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press