ESPN Quotes Willamette Professor in Sports Law Case

Law professor Jeffrey Standen, a sports law expert, recently weighed in on a case about sports betting for a news story on ESPN.

Delaware hopes to make up for part of its $800 million budget deficit by offering single-game betting, and the National Football League recently sued to stop the state from allowing the practice. Some powerful allies have joined the fight, including the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The sports leagues assert that the state's decision violates federal law, which prohibits states from operating a lottery or betting scheme based on pro or college games. Four states, including Delaware and Oregon, had previously operated sports betting, and were grandfathered into legislation that banned betting elsewhere.

But the grandfathered exception does not permit Delaware to conduct single-game wagers on sports, the lawsuit claims. The proposed single-game betting format violates the requirement that lottery games be based on skill. Betting against a spread is the equivalent of flipping a coin, removing skill from the bet. The leagues say that legalized single-game wagering presents a direct threat to the integrity of their games and the long-term health of their sports.

"If Delaware allowed bets on sports outcomes back in the day," Standen said in the ESPN article, "is it really all that different if the outcome is on one game as opposed to three?

"With a single game there is more skill involved than trying to pick multiple games. Would that single game bet still fit within the lottery exemption? Is it enough of a bet of luck?"

Standen teaches sports law at the Willamette University College of Law and wrote Taking Sports Seriously: Law and Sports in Contemporary American Culture. His blog is dedicated to the integration of sports and law.

The full ESPN article can be accessed online at

For Willamette's Media Guide of faculty experts, visit