Racing Would Get Share of Delaware Sports Betting

Delaware legislators are considering legalized sports betting with a twist: It would benefit the horse racing industry in the state in the same way as gaming.

Rep. Bill Oberle, speaker pro tem in Delaware, said the state is "grandfathered in" for sports betting, which was attempted in the early 1980s but was a bust. Oberle said the state lottery didn't know the ins and outs of laying odds, so the program was a financial drain.

"We're very hopeful," Oberle said. "There is a lot of interest in Delaware in pursuing it. With Maryland and Pennsylvania looking at slot machines, we're going to need an edge, and we believe sports betting can provide it."

Sports betting is legal and quite popular in Nevada.

In Delaware, three racetracks -- Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway -- have video lottery terminals that supplement purses. (Horsemen get 12% of net revenue.) Oberle said sports betting would be confined to those three tracks because of concerns over the proliferation of gambling, and purses would benefit from it.

"It wouldn't happen without the horsemen's involvement," Oberle said.

Oberle, who spoke March 13 during the joint meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Harness Tracks of America, and Racetracks of Canada in Hollywood Beach, Fla., was involved in the push for racetrack gaming in the early 1990s in Delaware. He's also a racing fan and a Standardbred owner.