Delaware is something of an odd choice to be at the forefront of gambling law in the United States.
It is a small, unassuming state best known for its strategic advantages in the area of incorporating a business and for its favorite son, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Nonetheless, in contrast to its reputation and its gradual foray into casino-style gambling, Delaware has jumped with both feet into the internet gambling arena. It was the only state other than Nevada and New Jersey to have legalized online gambling in any form until Pennsylvania joined the list in 2017. In fact, it was the first to do so in 2012, beating the two usual suspects.
So far, the results have been underwhelming and below initial projections, though those projections were likely too optimistic. Delaware only reported $1.4 million and $1.8 million in its first two years of offering online gambling. However, revenues shot up to $3 million in 2016, so it appears things are on the upswing.
Essentially, Delaware’s internet gambling is consolidated in one single platform. Each of the three land-based casinos are licensed to offer their own branded paths to online gambling, but ultimately, it’s a unified system managed by 888 Holdings.
Within that system, Delaware’s law actually allows for a quite broad interpretation of what can be offered. The director of the Delaware Department of Gaming Enforcement has, by law, quite a bit of latitude to decide the range of offerings, and the current holder of that position has not been eager to exclude anything. So, Delaware residents enjoy a favorable set of options for online gambling.
Social casino options are much the same for Delawareans as in other states. All the typical apps, like Zynga, Slotomania, and Big Fish Casino offer an opportunity to play slot machines and other games without risking any money.
Unfortunately, unlike New Jersey, it does not appear that the real-money sites in Delaware feature a play money option that ties directly into the branded sites.
MyVegas is typically one of the better options for social gaming, but its effectiveness is limited by players’ proximity to its partners’ real-world locations. Delaware is not particularly close to any of the MyVegas partners.
The closest would be either Borgata in New Jersey or Resorts World Bimini in the Bahamas, and neither one of those options is exceptionally convenient.
Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Delaware was one of four states exempted from the federal ban on sports betting. The state is allowed to offer parlay wagering. For the past decade or so, the state lottery has offered sports betting in the form of three-team NFL parlays.
When the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in full in May of 2018, Delaware immediately set its sights on expanding sports betting offerings. Perhaps surprisingly, the First State lived up to its nickname by becoming the first state post-PASPA to offer sports betting.
Gov. John Carney placed the first bet in the state on June 5. All three of Delaware’s casinos have active sportsbooks and are available to collect wagers.
So far, Delaware casinos have collected nearly $40 million in bets and held nearly $5.2 million through the end of September 2018. For a state with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, Delaware residents seem to be getting busy with sports betting.
|Delaware Park Online||Delaware Park|
|Dover Downs Online Gaming||Dover Downs|
|Harrington Online||Harrington Raceway|
Delaware’s move toward land-based gambling has been a gradual progression, rather than a full-bore sprint toward legalization.
Dating back to 1933, the state legislature created a racing commission, and through numerous legislative sessions, the state has slowly increased the prominence of gambling. In doing so, gambling has become the state’s fourth largest source of revenue, so the presence of gambling in the First State is likely quite stable.
Delaware has only three land-based casinos. In a vacuum, this sounds like a tentative number for a state to license, but considering that Delaware is less than 2,500 square miles in area and has less than one million total residents, three casinos is a solid presence. All three are racinos – gambling venues that contain a racetrack, which supports Delaware’s long history of horse racing.
All three casinos also contain slot machines and table games. Each has more than 2,000 slot machines for play. In a quirky twist, all slot machines in Delaware are technically video lottery terminals, meaning that their operation is overseen by the Delaware Lottery, and taxes from their operation feed into the state funds via the lottery’s contributions.
However, the slots player in Delaware will see little functional difference. They still pay out in cash, and they still offer the same relative level of payout percentage – between 87 and 95 percent by law.
|Property||Location||Number of Slot Machines|
|Delaware Park||Stanton||More than 2,200|
|Dover Downs||Dover||More than 2,300|
|Harrington Raceway||Harrington||More than 1,700|
Delaware Park is the oldest gambling facility in the state of Delaware. With the state legalization of horse racing in 1933, William DuPont Jr. (of the DuPont family) designed a one-mile dirt oval track and expansive facilities for both guests and the horses.
“DelPark” is the only location for thoroughbred horse racing in the state. Today, Delaware Park is a full-service racetrack and casino, offering thousands of slot machines, live table games like blackjack, craps, roulette, and pai gow, and both a poker room for cash play and a poker tournament room.
There is also a sports betting venue, although due to another quirk of legal restrictions, only parlays may be purchased on football games. To round out the entertainment options, DelPark is also the home of White Clay Creek Country Club, a full-service golf facility.
Delaware Park is owned by William Rickman Jr., who inherited the property from his father. Rickman Jr. was also the owner of Ocean Downs Racetrack just over the border in Maryland, but sold the property in August 2016. Indeed, there have long been rumors about potential sales of DelPark property.
The proliferation of casinos and racetracks in Pennsylvania has choked off profit pipelines and increased competitive pressure throughout the region – both in Delaware and New Jersey. Quite simply, the market is saturated in the Northeast, especially with Pennsylvania continuing to press its advantage yielded by larger population centers, particularly Philadelphia.
Still, Delaware Park is a favorite for locals, and it will continue to exist for many years to come in some format. There is too much tradition and history to think otherwise.
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-based Gambling||Yes||Only three brick-and-mortar casinos – no expansion expected|
|Online Gambling||Yes||Legalized in 2012 – first in the US|
|Lottery||Yes||Delaware Lottery not only exists, but is a major oversight body for much of the state’s gambling, due to the legal classification of slot machines as lottery games.|
|Charitable or House-based Gambling||Yes||Bingo, raffles, and No-Limit Texas Hold’em tournaments only – gambling outside the casinos is strictly prohibited unless very specific friendly/non-profitable games|
|Minimum Gambling Age||21||21 for casino gambling, both online and live; 18 for horseracing|