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Delaware Online Casinos


As one of the smallest states in the union, Delaware may seem like an unlikely place to find an upstart online gambling market. But in reality, the state has greatly expanded its gaming offerings in recent years, with racetrack casinos becoming a big business. Those tracks are also at the center of the state’s online gambling sites: operations that have so far survived, but have yet to bring in the kinds of revenues that officials had hoped for before they launched.

Early Adopter of Online Gaming

While Delaware can’t claim to be the first state to regulate an online gambling site (that honor goes to gambling capital of the world Nevada, which licensed online poker a few months earlier), but they were the first to license top full Internet casinos. In November 2013, the three “racinos” in the state – Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway – started offering a full suite of games over the Internet, under the jurisdiction of the state lottery. This decision followed the Department of Justice’s opinion that the Wire Act only applied to remote sports betting, a move that has so far led three states to regulate Internet gaming.

As in other segregated American markets, only players in the state were allowed to participate on these sites. Thanks to the connection with the state lottery, users could not only enjoy table games, slots, and poker, but lottery ticket sales have also been offered through the web portals. All three tracks feed into the same sites; however, revenue is split between them based on which brand name a player entered the network through.

Unfortunately, the fact that this is a very small state – and not one that is a hotbed for gambling tourism – has kept the revenues from these sites to a minimum. While online casino games have seen growth each year, poker has struggled to find a foothold, with player liquidity being a major problem. A compact that linked Delaware’s poker network with one in Nevada helped to avoid a total collapse, but revenues from the game are still falling ast the time of writing, with the state’s monthly take falling to less than $25,000 in September and October of 2015.

These figures do not represent all of the Internet gaming that goes on in the state, however. Many players also participate at sites that are hosted overseas. As with most states, Delaware exists as a grey market: even though operators generally aren’t supposed to offer their games to residents here (unless they hold a license in the state), many still do, and players can legally participate in any sites they want to without any repercussions.

Relative Newcomer

Delaware is a relatively new player in the world of casino gambling. While racetracks have existed in the state for a long time, it wasn’t until 1995 that the state lottery began to operate video lottery terminals at both Delaware Park and Dover Downs. They were then joined by Harrington the next year, leading to the three racino market that the state enjoys today.

Over time, the offerings at these facilities have been expanded. In 2010, the racetracks began offering a selection of table games as well, with new laws allowing most of the offerings of a full scale casino: blackjack, craps, roulette, and even poker games can now be played at the tracks.

While these moves were designed to help the local gaming industry compete against increased competition from other states in the region, it appears as though the racetracks are still struggling to keep up with operations in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, Maryland and other locations. In particular, the Maryland facilities have taken away much of the player base from the casinos in Delaware, and with more resorts likely to be built there, the situation may not improve anytime soon.

In an attempt to provide some relief, the state has twice paid money back to the tracks in order to bolster their finances. In 2013, $8 million was returned, while another $10 million was given back in the following year. However, the industry was still looking for relief in 2015, even as revenues and profits began to turn the corner for the tracks that had been struggling for several years.

One particularly interesting aspect of the gaming industry here is the fact that the state does allow for some limited sports betting. When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992, it grandfathered in four states that already had sports betting, though they could only continue to offer the kinds of bets they had at that point.

Here, that meant that sports-based lottery games were still allowed. In particular, the state allows for parlay betting on NFL games, though it does not allow individuals to place bets on the results of a single game. This opens up plenty of betting options, from typical parlays to teasers of various forms. In addition, the state does take futures bets on the winner of the Super Bowl before the season begins each year. Because this is a lottery game, there are some options that you might not normally associate with sportsbooks: for instance, players can choose a “quick pick” card that randomly assigns them teams for their bet.

Future Outlook for the State

The biggest developments in the first state’s gaming industry are likely to be on the land-based side of the equation, as the Internet operators already allow for all types of games to be played. Of course, there is always the potential for larger compacts with other jurisdictions (in particular, New Jersey seems like a realistic partner), but dramatic changes seem unlikely anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the land-based operations are still hoping to get more financial relief from the state government. While the aid packages in 2013 and 2014 certainly helped, many executives at the racetracks want a longer term solution, such as a reduction in the tax rate charged on gaming revenues.

However, there appears to be a limit to what lawmakers are willing to give away, at least for now. In 2015, a $46 million bailout package was proposed, but never even received a vote in the state’s General Assembly, with many legislators saying that the measure was not a priority for them.

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