Sports betting drive stalls in Delaware

Jul 29, 2003 7:46 AM

Nevada needn’t worry about losing its monopoly on legal sports betting. At least, not this year.

A campaign to legalize sports betting in Delaware stalled this month, despite a favorable report from a statewide task force that was completed last month.

Delaware is one of four states exempt from federal statutes that ban sports betting. The others are Nevada, Oregon and Montana.

The state’s House of Representatives commissioned the study from the Sports Betting Task Force, which reported in June that sports betting could contribute $13 million to the state’s general fund, increase the collective income of the state’s three casinos by $19.3 million, and add $4 million to horse racing purses.

If approved, betting on college and professional sports would be conducted at Delaware’s three racinos ”” Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway.

But the state’s legislature was preoccupied this summer with other gaming issues, such as a smoking ban, increasing the number of slot machines and debating a full-blown casino-hotel in Wilmington.

Proponents, however, said they plan to resurrect the proposal in January.

"I still think it’s a viable option," said Rep. William A. Oberle, who said he plans to submit a bill in January that would allow for sports betting. "It makes our casinos destination-type facilities."

Oberle said the wildfire spread of slot machines at casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania (if it comes on line) has put the squeeze on Delaware gaming.

"This will give us additional revenues and the ability to compete," he said.

Part of the problem in getting sports betting approved is opposition from Governor Ruth Ann Minner, who has vowed to oppose any expansion of gambling in Delaware.

Nevertheless, its proponents will continue to push for its passage.

Edward Sutor, executive vice president of Dover Downs, said legalized sports betting in Delaware would give the state "an East Coast monopoly."