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Third Circuit Agrees with Sports Leagues' Interpretation of Federal Statute - Morris Nichols Litigation Team Successful in National Sports Leagues Betting Appeal

Wilmington, DE – August 31, 2009 – The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with Morris Nichols’ interpretation of the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and ruled in favor of its clients – all of the major national professional sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and the NCAA – that Delaware’s plan to offer single-game sports betting violates the federal law.  The Morris Nichols litigation team was led by Corporate and Business Litigation Group partner Ken Nachbar and included partner Megan Cascio, special counsel Susan Waesco and associate Pauletta Brown.

The sports leagues’ appeal arose from an earlier federal district court ruling denying its request for a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent Delaware from implementing the wagering plan scheduled to begin on September 1, 2009.  The appeal of the interlocutory order was successfully expedited and argued by the Morris Nichols team.

Citing an “unusually complete factual and legal presentation,” the Court of Appeals did not extend the discretion customarily given to a district court’s preliminary injunction ruling but instead applied its plenary scope of review as to the applicable law and addressed the merits of the case. 

In its 23-page opinion, the Court agreed with the Morris Nichols team’s argument that because Delaware’s single-game and non-NFL betting plan had not previously been "conducted" by Delaware, such betting is prohibited under the statute's plain language, and if allowed, would be contrary to PASPA’s central purpose of prohibiting the spread of sports gambling and preventing the resulting harm to the integrity of professional sports.