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United States Court of Appeals Rules Delaware’ Sports Betting Plan Violates Federal Law

Posted On: September 9, 2009 by Marc Neff

A plan which would have allowed single-game betting on all major sporting events at Delaware’s three racetrack betting locations, beginning September 1st, was not allowed to take effect. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled the plan a violation of a 1992 Federal Law. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 outlawed sports betting nationwide, with the exception of a few states. The Act allowed Nevada to continue licensed sports betting and also exempted the sports lotteries conducted by Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. The Act also provided a one-year grace period for states, who had allowed sports betting over the previous ten-year period, to create legislation permitting sports wagering; a clause which was clearly crafted for the State of New Jersey, however the State chose rather to let the grace period lapse. The Act applies to all major sporting events, both professional and amateur, with exceptions for horse and dog racing, and also jai alai, a Spanish sport which has not gained much popularity in the United States.

Delaware wished to institute its sports betting plan in accordance with the PASPA’s exemption for Delaware’s sports lottery; the proceeds to help offset an $800 million state budget deficit. Attorneys for the four major professional sports (football, basketball, baseball, and hockey) argued that allowing betting on single game sporting events would compromise the integrity of the games by promoting game fixing. Attorney Kenneth Nachbar argued the Act’s exemption for the Delaware sports lottery does not allow the State to institute single-game betting, stating “the closer you get to single-game betting, the more you call into question the integrity of what happens on the field or on the court.” Rather, Delaware’s sports lottery, which has not been in existence since 1976, allowed for betting on multiple games via parlay bets. Attorneys for the State of Delaware argued the plan meets the definition of a lottery under the 1992 Act, but to no avail.

Last year, Tim Donaghy, a referee in the National Basketball Association, was charged with crimes relating to betting on single games and passing along inside information to bookies. It is still unknown for sure whether Donaghy, through his position as a referee, affected the outcome of any NBA games he worked. He pled guilty to Federal Fraud charges and was sentenced this summer to fifteen months in prison.


Fraud is defined as an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraud can be committed in many forms, including tampering with sporting events or other events which invite legal betting. The penalties for committing fraud vary, depending on the type of fraud and the damage caused by the fraudulent activities. The Law Offices of Marc Neff have over 20-years of experience successfully defending clients charged with fraud and related offenses. If you are under investigation of fraud, or have been charged with a criminal offense, contact our offices immediately. There are defenses available to you, and the Law Offices of Marc Neff can assist in developing a successful defense.

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Posted in: Federal White Collar Crime