DOVER, Del. (BP)–The governor of Delaware has proposed a sports lottery to help compensate for a $750 million shortfall in the state’s budget, but opponents contend the gambling expansion will only make matters worse.
Gov. Jack Markell’s proposal, which he hopes to move through the legislature quickly, would legalize sports betting at Delaware’s three existing casinos as well as up to 10 sports bars or restaurants, generating what he predicts as an estimated $55 million in revenue for the state during the first year. Also at a March 19 news conference, Markell proposed adding up to three more casinos, which also would feature sports betting.
USA Today reported that the governor’s office sent a letter to the Delaware Supreme Court asking for the court’s guidance on what type of sports lottery would comply with state law.
In the letter, Markell presented three possibilities: single-game, where a player would use the betting line to place a bet on a game; total lottery, where players would select whether the total scoring for a game would be over or under a set line; and parlay lottery, where players would select from a number of different games.
Already an executive with the National Football League has voiced opposition to the idea, which he termed “misguided and shortsighted public policy,” USA Today said.
Montana currently is the only state with a sports lottery, and there players pick the winners of NFL and NASCAR events. Nevada has nearly unlimited sports gambling. Only Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon are exempt from a federal sports-betting ban because they had a form of sports betting when the law was enacted, USA Today said.
Delaware experimented with sports betting in the 1970s, but it only lasted a few months. Last year a bill that sought to reinstate a sports lottery passed the state’s House of Representatives but fell short in the Senate.
“As Baptists, we must join hands with faith leaders of all faiths that oppose this degrading vice in our midst,” Bob Simpson, associate executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said in a statement to Baptist Press.
“We have the moral high ground here,” Simpson said. “Gambling of any kind is not good for our communities. Other states have found, after the fact, that gambling is devastating to families and businesses alike and is the cause of one of the most insidious addictions that can ever snare a person.”
Simpson said gambling preys on those at lower income levels who often spend their paychecks looking for a chance at quick wealth.
“I am well aware of the dramatic change that has occurred within American culture. I get that we as Bible-believing Christians are swimming upstream on most things related to both faith and family values,” Simpson said. “But it just seems to me that, in spite of what the pro-gambling folks tell us, more good could come if we solidly defeat any and all gambling initiatives.”
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press Markell’s proposal is bad for the citizens of Delaware and for all sports.
“Lotteries capitalize on human suffering and insecurity by promising immediate relief,” Duke said, noting the state of the nation’s economy. “Unfortunately, all but a few will be worse off financially when they spend their scarce dollars on the empty promises of lotteries.
“And everyone suffers from the demeaning effect any form of gambling has on human dignity. Using sporting events for lottery gambling will have all of the negative effects of gambling and will also demean one of the most honorable of human endeavors,” Duke said. “Athletic contests should be seen as exhibitions of some of the best qualities of the human spirit and as celebrations of the amazing human body.”
Excelling at sports requires commitment, sacrifice, discipline and determination, Duke said, and such traits should be honored rather than disgraced by a bet.
“We send the wrong message to our athletes and to our children when we reduce sports to a price and a means to immediate wealth,” he said. “We cheapen the value of human achievement, send the wrong message to our youth, encourage more gambling, and create opportunities for corruption by the bettors and the athletes when we gamble on sporting events.
“The governor should look for more honorable ways to address Delaware’s financial crisis than such a losing proposition as a sports lottery,” Duke said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.