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Delaware moving quickly to begin sports betting

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(AP) – Delaware officials are moving quickly to implement full-scale sports betting in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for states to implement wagering schemes.

After consulting with the state attorney general’s office on the impact of Monday’s court ruling, state finance officials said Thursday that they have determined that there are no legal obstacles to moving forward with single-game wagering in a variety of sports.

Officials said sports betting will be restricted to the state’s three casinos and will not include wagering on collegiate games involving Delaware colleges and universities.

They plan to begin training lottery and casino staff next week in preparation for a June launch of full-scale sports betting.

Delaware lawmakers passed legislation in 2009 authorizing the state lottery office to promulgate regulations for betting on any professional or collegiate sporting event, except for games involving Delaware colleges or universities. A federal appeals court shot down the state’s plan, however, saying Delaware was restricted in its grandfathered status under the PAPSA to offering multi-game parlay bets on National Football League games.

Finance secretary Rick Geisenberger indicated earlier this week that with the law and regulations already in place, Delaware could get a jump on other states in allowing sports betting.

“We’re going to look at the mix of products that makes sense,” Geisenberger said Thursday.

While Delaware may be first out of the gate, it’s unclear whether sports betting will result in a big payoff.

By virtue of a failed 1976 lottery that featured parlay bets on National Football League games, Delaware was one of four states that received grandfather exemptions under a 1992 federal ban on sports betting.

Delaware officials decided in 2009 to revive sports betting and to expand it to include single-game bets on a variety of professional and amateur events in the new sports lottery. Following a challenge by professional sports league and the NCAA, a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s sports lottery must be restricted to a scheme similar to that of the 1976 lottery, namely multi-game wagers on professional football.

Geisenberger said the sports lottery has taken in about $46 million in wagers annually over the past two years, with an average net of about 25 percent. After the oddsmaker contracted by Delaware takes its cut, the state takes half the remainder, with about 40 percent going to the casinos. The state’s horse racing industry also gets a percentage.

The state’s final profit amounted to about $2.2 million in fiscal 2017 and $9 million in fiscal 2018, according to state finance officials.

Geisenberger noted that while the average net take on parlay football bets has been about 25 percent, the average win on head-to-head, single-game bets is about five or six percent. That means the state would need to see a sharp increase in wagering to match or exceed its current profit.

“We need a dramatic increase in the amount of wagering in order to keep the same amount of money” he cautioned.

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