Delaware has the nickname “The First State” thanks to having been the first of the 13 colonies to ratify the US Constitution. The nickname fits for other reasons, too, including with regard to sports betting.
Delaware was the first state to legalize online gambling in 2012. It was also the first state to legalize sports betting after the US Supreme Court‘s 2018 ruling against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act lifted the federal ban.
Delaware’s involvement with sports betting actually dates back much earlier. Even though Nevada was essentially the only state for many decades where sports betting was legal, there were a few states still allowed to offer limited types of wagering on sports. Delaware was one of those states.
In fact, many years before New Jersey was successful in its appeal to bring down PASPA, Delaware was fighting a similar fight in federal court. In other words, while Delaware is one of the country’s smallest states in size and population, it plays a relatively big role in the history of sports betting in the US.
Today Delaware has full-fledged sports betting available in each of the state’s three casinos. Online sports betting is also legal in the state, although it has yet to launch. Daily fantasy sports contests are also legal in Delaware.
Here’s an overview of the background and current status of Delaware sports betting, including information about what bettors can expect when wagering on sports in the state.
Delaware has allowed various types of gambling over the years.
Horse racing had already been popular in the state for many decades when Delaware first legalized pari-mutuel wagering in 1933.
Three racetracks remain in operation today, including Delaware Park Racetrack which first opened in 1937. Races also continue to run at Harrington Raceway (opened 1946) and Dover Downs (opened 1969). Dover Downs also doubles as a site for NASCAR events.
Later in 1957 came a constitutional amendment to allow charitable bingo games, and the number of bingo halls soon grew markedly throughout Delaware. Bingo continues to be popular in the state, with other charitable games allowed such as raffles and No Limit Texas Hold’em. More recently Delaware also legalized slots and video poker machines in veterans clubs, with all revenue going either to the vendors or to charity.
A major event in the history of Delaware gambling came in 1994 with the passage of the Horse Racing Preservation Act. The new law allowed the state’s three racetracks to begin operating slots-like video lottery machines, the first of which were installed a year later.
Then in 2009 lawmakers passed legislation that would allow the racetracks to add other casino games. Starting in 2010, the racetracks began spreading blackjack, craps, poker, roulette and other games, thereby becoming full-fledged racinos.
Two years after that, the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012 became law, allowing the Delaware Lottery to start selling lottery tickets online as well as to offer online casino games, including online poker. That made Delaware the very first state to make online gambling legal, followed shortly thereafter by Nevada and then New Jersey.
Using a single-provider system powered by Scientific Games (casino) and 888 Holdings (poker), Delaware’s first online gambling sites launched in November 2013. Each of the three racinos — Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway — has its own branded portal, although they all share the same platform.
Since then, Delaware has entered multi-state internet gambling agreements with Nevada (in 2015) and New Jersey (in 2018), enabling online poker players in DE to play in shared player pools with those from NV and NJ.
The Delaware Lottery was first established in 1975. During the 1976 football season, the Delaware Lottery accepted bets on three-team NFL parlays. That experiment with sports betting didn’t last long, but it had some meaningful consequences.
In 1992 came the federal law prohibiting states other than Nevada from offering sports betting, the aforementioned PASPA. However, thanks to Delaware’s earlier dalliance with sports betting, it was one of a few states granted an exception from the ban.
That exception allowed Delaware’s three racetracks to begin accepting sports wagers on NFL games starting in 2009. Again, only parlay bets (i.e., no bets on individual games) were allowed, although with a number of added variations. After a few years, Super Bowl futures were added, as well.
During the 2010s, Delaware attempted to challenge the law in order to expand its sports betting offerings. None of those efforts succeeded, however, until the US Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that PASPA was unconstitutional. Within a week, Delaware had already legalized expanded sports betting, becoming the first state to do so.
In 2017, Delaware legalized daily fantasy sports, meaning DraftKings, FanDuel and other DFS sites could accept players from Delaware.
As noted, the three Delaware racetracks were all already accepting sports wagers prior to 2018.
Since then, each has expanded its offerings with larger, Vegas-style sportsbooks. That said, the NFL parlay cards — aka the Sports Pick cards — remain quite popular among bettors given their history in DE.
Since the Delaware Lottery oversees each of the sportsbooks, all three share a lot in common as far as what they offer. William Hill supplies sports betting for all three.
Bettors must go to the racinos in order to place their wagers. That is to say, there is no online option available.
Online sports betting is legal in the state. However no Delaware online sportsbooks have launched as yet.
Delaware Lottery officials have indicated they will take a renewed look at sports betting in the near future, including revisiting the idea of introducing web-based and mobile options for bettors.
The Delaware sportsbooks give bettors a variety of sports to bet on, both professional and collegiate. Football is by far the most popular sport for betting, with the sportsbooks even opening an hour earlier on the weekends during the season.
Sports on which bettors can place wagers in Delaware include:
As one of the country’s smallest states, Delaware has no professional sports teams of its own.
There are several major cities with pro franchises located near Delaware, however, including Baltimore and Washington, DC, to the south and Philadelphia to the north. New Jersey and New York aren’t far away, either, with their pro franchises playing in East Rutherford and Newark (NJ), as well as Brooklyn, Buffalo and New York City (NY).
These cities’ teams therefore have many fans in Delaware. Residents of New Castle County in the north typically pull for the Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Flyers, all of whom play home games about a half-hour’s drive away.
Delaware has a couple of universities with teams competing at the Division I level — the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens and the Delaware State Hornets and Lady Hornets.
However Delaware’s sports betting law is such that sportsbooks are not allowed to accept bets on games involving Delaware schools.
Again, schools from surrounding states tend to draw support as well as betting action from Delaware. These include:
As noted, horse racing is a significant part of the sports betting scene in Delaware. All three of the state’s sportsbooks are located at racetracks. Delaware Park is a thoroughbred track, while both Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs are harness tracks.
All three also offer off-track betting of simulcast races seven days a week. They are the only authorized OTB locations in the state.
Online OTB sites also accept customers from Delaware. Some of the more popular include:
The three Delaware sportsbooks offer the same variety of sports wagering opportunities as sportsbooks in other states.
Those wishing to place a bet at any of the Delaware sportsbooks must be at least 21 years old.
Meanwhile, the minimum age to bet on horse races in Delaware is 18 years old.
The Delaware Lottery oversees all sports betting in the state, as well as other types of gambling (both live and retail).