Chief District Judge Gregory Sleet denied an emergency request from the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA to stop the state from launching sportsbooks at three racinos while a lawsuit challenging their legality moves forward to a Dec. 7 trial.
The state, which is trying to address a projected budget shortfall of more than $600 million, expects to take in $3 million from sports wagering between Sept. 1 and June 2010, and expects an additional $14 million in new revenue from slot machines because of increased traffic at the racinos because of sports betting.
Lawrence Hamermesh, a law professor at Widener University, said having sports gambling up and running should strengthen the state's case when it goes to trial in December.
"Once you see what happens, the plaintiffs' fears may not be as great as they said. On balance, it is good news for the state," Hamermesh told the Wilmington News Journal.
Delaware, along with Nevada, Oregon and Montana, are the only states that had sports betting laws on the books in 1992 when Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which banned states from being in the bookmaking business.
Officials in New Jersey, who has been pushing for sports betting, were encouraged by Wednesday's ruling.
"That's great news. I support what Delaware is doing," said New Jersey senator Raymond Lesniak, who filed a federal lawsuit in March against the U.S. Justice Department to overturn the ban on sports betting in other states. "It just further shows the hypocrisy of the sports leagues to allow legalizing sports betting in four states and in denying states, like New Jersey, the same opportunity."