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The politics of sports gambling
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Politics make strange bedfellows and state officials in Delaware are shopping for sheets and comforters with one of America’s biggest taboos –– legalized sports gambling.

This past Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law; making the first state admitted to the union the only place east of the Mississippi River to allow betting on sports as a legal leisure activity.

According to reports, the sports lottery is a key ingredient to Markell’s plan to address the projected loss of more than $600 million for the coming fiscal year.

Now, the bill will appear before the state supreme court on May 21, which will ultimately decide if this legislation is added to Delaware’s constitution.

While Gov. Markell views this as a way to boost Delaware’s economy through taxes, travel and tourism, his plans have been met by several opponents from local citizens to sports leagues, including the mother of all athletic conglomerates — the National Football League.

Professional football is the end all and be all of sports in America. The season is played from September through Super Bowl Sunday in February; however, the nation’s indulgence for football is a yearlong obsession that led to the development of the NFL Network and various sports channel shows dedicated to covering every yard of the game.

While the game itself in its purest form had me at hello, I’d be a fool to think that its overall mass appeal wasn’t the result of gambling. From office pools, the fantasy leagues, the NFL has soared to summit of popularity as a result of wages tossed around on its teams.

The league might be married to the networks, but its mistress is gambling and they’ve shared a profitable living space for decades.

Television pregame shows, Internet sites and magazines constantly promote gambling with a wink of the eye by displaying betting lines, injury reports, game-time weather forecasts and statistical trends.

With all the companies that pay the NFL millions of dollars to promote their businesses during games, have you ever seen a spot that speaks of the ills of gambling?

Gov. Markell is well aware of this fact and wants to get this legislature signed, sealed and delivered before the start of the season. This will gives folks from the northeast a cheaper alternative to flying to Las Vegas to place a bet on the weekly point spread. Local hotels, bars, restaurants and shopping centers should thrive from this act, which would be a relaxing calm from the harsh economic storm ripping through the nation.

Like everything else in life, too much of anything, from drinking to eating chocolate, is never a good thing if it’s not done in moderation. Compulsive gambling is a nasty illness that tears lives and families apart if one loses self-control.

I’m not telling you it’s OK to gamble, but since I’m an annual participant in a football pool league, I’d be a hypocrite to say I’m in disagreement with Markell’s plans.

Commissioner Roger Goodell can gripe all he wants, but his sport has made billions from fans gambling on NFL games.

Just like in every casino, the house always wins, so the pockets of the league will continue to be lined regardless of what happens in Delaware and you can bet the farm on that.


Rory Sharrock is sports editor with The Rockdale News. He can be reached at