Delaware expects to offer sports betting at its three racetracks this summer under a new law that also allows the tracks to offer table games such as blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette.
Gov. Jack Markell signed the legislation into law May 14. He had proposed the gambling expansion to help plug a $600-million gap in the state budget for the next fiscal year.
The state’s tracks—Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway—opposed the original legislation, which would have allowed for three more casinos and up to 10 other locations for sports betting. The tracks also fought a proposed increase in the state’s share of revenue from on-track video lottery terminals.
According to The Associated Press, the governor reduced the VLT tax increase and dropped the sports betting license fee from $4.5 million to $4 million. Under the law, the racetracks retain exclusive rights to casino gambling and sports betting in the state.
Table games could be ready in about six months, officials said. That would give Delaware a jump on neighboring Pennsylvania, where racetracks and non-track facilities have slot machines but no table games; and Maryland, where slots are legal but no licenses have been awarded.
A statewide smoking ban and competition from Pennsylvania have put a dent in revenue at Delaware racetracks. Purses, which skyrocketed in the late 1990s, have been relatively flat.
Delaware Park this year trimmed dates and its stakes schedule to maintain overnight purses. Dover and Harrington are harness tracks that form an almost year-round circuit in the state.
The Delaware Supreme Court is expected to issue an advisory ruling on sports betting, which is opposed by major league and college sports leagues. Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon are the only states allowed to offer sports betting under a 1992 federal law.