Point of No Return: Sports betting brings questions, few answers

“Delaware Finally Comes Up With A Reason To Visit It.”

That was the headline I looked at last Thursday evening on a Deadspin article written by Lauren Theisen. The snarky little piece discussed how Delaware was scheduled to become the first state to allow betting on sports since the Supreme Court swiped away Las Vegas’ monopoloy on sports betting in May.

“Delaware already had a small exemption from the federal sports gambling ban for NFL parlays,” Theisen wrote. “In becoming the first state to fully legalize sports gambling after the Supreme Court ruling, they beat New Jersey — which is also expected to legalize bets very soon — and give wanna-be gamblers an excuse to check out a tiny east-coast state. ‘We’re hopeful that this will bring even more visitors into Delaware to see firsthand what our state has to offer,’ Governor John Carney said in a statement. I’m not sure about that, but I do hear Lewes is nice in the summer, at least.”

Apparently, Ms. Theisen has never heard of scrapple. Or shopped without paying sales tax. Or filled her nose and lungs with the scent of fertilizer on a sunny afternoon — a bouquet described to me once by local farmer Paul Parsons as “the smell of money.”

I mean, it’s painfully obvious that Ms. Theisen has not partaken in the delights offered by a string of successful Delaware beermakers, or kayaked our inland waterways at the same time that orange ball of sun meets the horizon to form a sunset that could easily be described as “one of a kind,” even if it happens naturally nearly every single evening.

 You’ve heard Lewes is nice in the summer, Ms. Theisen? You’re right. It is a gorgeous town, and we’re pretty proud of it. But we’re also pretty proud of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island and Millville and Millsboro and Selbyville and Laurel and any number of other unique towns and unincorporated communities that fill our part of the state. We are blessed with an ocean and beaches and farms and state parks and people who will bend over backwards to help out another person, and most of us don’t take what is around us for granted. We feel blessed.

Every single day.

Maybe you’ve only visited the northern part of the state, and made your assumptions based on that. I can understand that. It’s a different world up there than it is down here. Unfortunately, you included us in your little shot, and...

But I digress.

I mean, I really, really digress. The intent this week was to talk about the state’s new sports betting opportunities, and I got stuck on a tangent about a blog. Plus, I’m a regular reader and fan of Deadspin, and know how they frame their stories. Usually, I get a small smirk out of what they say, but when it’s about one of my teams or the state I call home...

Sorry. Let’s get back on point. Or, on point, since I’m not entirely sure we were ever on point to begin with, now that I’m thinking about it. I swear, nobody gets distracted as easy as I do, and all of a sudden I just...

Yeah. Another digression. Sorry.

On Tuesday, June 5, sports betting went live in Delaware, and Carney made the first-ever bet at Dover Downs, according to a CBS story. Carney placed $10 on the Philadelphia Phillies to upset the Chicago Cubs — a bet that later paid off when the Phillies won the game, 6-1. 

So, once again, Delaware is first. First to ratify the Constitution. First to have a regularly-operated steam railroad. First state other than Nevada to allow sports gaming. First to consider muskrat a culinary delight. 

Editor’s Note: I have no idea if Delaware was the first to consider muskrat a culinary delight or, in fact, if anybody has ever considered muskrat a culinary delight. I went for the cheap laugh because, well, that’s how I roll.

There really is no telling how much money this is going to bring the state, or, any state, for that matter. Delaware jumped out first, which means it will probably get a little bit of additional business from neighboring states before they start up their own programs, but those other states are coming in the next week or two (New Jersey is raring to go, from all reports), and nobody knows how much money will be actually generated in the first place.

“Being first out of the gate may offer some first-mover advantages,” said Randy Gerarded, director of municipal securities research for Wells Fargo Securities in New York, as quoted in a Reuters article. “But it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much activity that will stimulate or how much revenue.”

So... the hope is that sports betting will add a boost to the state’s coffers, but we’re not entirely sure how much. And the slippery slope of our state’s casinos going from just slots, to table games, to Internet table games, to parlays to straight sports betting simply continues to open up more and more opportunities for gamblers to gamble. What is next? People betting on their phones while sitting on the beach or at a red light? Our three casinos being surrounded by pawn shops, blood banks and soup kitchens?

I’m no gambling prude. On the contrary, I’m a moderately-competitive poker player and I enjoy “having a little action” on a game as much as the next guy. But the world of gambling does come with a world of problems. 

And, as we are in a battle for our lives regarding the addiction of heroin and other opioids, is opening the door to another addictive practice — and the ensuing crime that often comes with it — worth the money that may or may not come, and the jobs that may or may not stay?

The state is betting on it. Here’s to hoping.