Delaware Sports Lottery keeps running up the score

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DOVER — There’s nothing deflated about these numbers.
The Delaware Sports Lottery is a big winner no matter who takes today’s Super Bowl.
The First State has an approximate $7.1 million payday coming to the General Fund based on season-long wagers placed by bettors. That’s a record-setting haul for Delaware, topping last year’s $5.7 million and continuing its climb as a revenue producer.
So Tom Brady can air it out with 475 passing yards in a Patriot rout, or a silent Marshawn Lynch can rush for five touchdowns during a huge Seahawks win.
It’s all good — the state and its taxpayers still come out well ahead in the end.
Sports Lottery profits have continued to rise since its inception in 2009, and officials foresee more good seasons ahead.
The 20.1 percent increase in sales this year was preceded by a 24 percent uptick the season before, according to state lottery officials.
“It is continuing to grow; I don’t know where the ceiling is, or if there is a ceiling,” Delaware Lottery Director Vernon Kirk said.
For those counting to the last dollar, the state will make out slightly better overall if the Patriots cover the points, according to Mr. Kirk.
Today’s Seahawks-Patriots result will shift hundreds of thousands of dollars amongst bettors, some losing out on parlay cards and others hitting them and cashing in.
Also, 620 Patriots and 562 Seahawks tickets are alive in the future’s bets, made by fans picking the potential Super Bowl champion at ever-changing odds throughout the season.
The 755 Eagles tickets are, well, no longer in play and haven’t been for awhile now.
The state of Delaware figures to gain roughly $90,000 in futures bets if the Seahawks win, $79,600 with a Patriots triumph. Staying within federal guidelines, the state refers to the Super Bowl only as the Championship Game.
Whatever the final total, Delaware is profiting from the National Football League’s popularity once again.
“It does seem we have a national obsession with football,” Mr. Kirk said. “There are any number of reasons, but several stand out to me.
“First, football is exciting. It’s fast paced and easy to follow and there are always some really spectacular plays.
“Second, and this goes particularly to people’s involvement, the explosion of fantasy football. Fantasy leagues are everywhere and are a focus of interest before, during and after the games.
“And lastly, I don’t think one can ignore the gambling aspect of the sport. It’s in every newspaper in the country and discussed every week on numerous TV shows.
“I certainly think Delaware’s sales numbers, especially the last several years, really attest to the interest and entertainment value of customers being able to wager on our Football Lottery.”
Also, roughly 13 million betting cards needed for 2014 were all printed in Delaware, adding profits to the state’s business economy.
Mr. Kirk described the results as “phenomenal” and said there was just one week where the Sports Lottery paid out more to the bettors than it took in.
While Delaware has hit on an apparent sure thing, most other states aren’t taking the bet. Only Montana, Oregon and Nevada allow legal sports wagering.
“You could make the argument that betting is safer if it’s not done in the illegal market,” Chris Moyer of the American Gambling Association said.
Mr. Moyer said that while an estimated $3.8 billion in illegal Super Bowl bets will be made, $100 billion will be bet legally, mostly in Nevada.
“The law that restricts sports betting in the United States is clearly not working,” he said.
The state approves
Gov. Jack Markell’s office said the impact of a successful Sports Lottery is felt within state government operations and at public establishments.
“As the only state east of the Mississippi to offer sports wagering, Delaware has seen growing revenues since the sports lottery was introduced in 2009,” spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said. “The growing interest in the sports lottery not only supports important government functions like police and schools, but it also drives customers to the local businesses licensed to offer the sports lottery.”
The legality and structure of Delaware’s sports wagering is also a lucrative bonus for bettors and the state alike, Ms. Bachman said.
“We know illegal and unregulated sports betting occurs despite legal restrictions,” Ms. Bachman said.
“Delaware has demonstrated that, when conducted in a well-regulated market environment, sports wagering can be safe, secure and profitable.”
Mr. Kirk said the state would meet with retailers after the season, seeking feedback on anything good or bad they learned during the year.
More formal meetings are held with casino representatives throughout the year, Mr. Kirk said. It was the casinos that suggested the over/under wager on points scored in a game that was added in 2013, he said.
“Given the six years of experience the casinos have had with the Sports Lottery, their Sportsbook operations are pretty refined at this point,” Mr. Kirk said. “They do sometimes offer suggestions for adding various types of wagers …”
Retail sites expand
With 83 retailers throughout the state (up from 69 in 2013), the Sports Lottery continued to permeate throughout the restaurants with convenience stores and businesses appreciating the walk-in customers and those spending more time eating and drinking at their establishments, buying snacks and gas after placing a parlay wager.
Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sundays, customers placed the most bets at Fraizers restaurant in Dover, General Manager Rick Anibal said.
“I think people like it and definitely enjoy it,” Mr. Anibal said. “The people who play it, play it regularly.”
While a few customers come to the restaurant, buy their cards and leave, Mr. Anibal said most arrive for the food and drink, and add to the entertainment experience with the wagers.
“I don’t think it increases business, but it does provide another form of entertainment,” Mr. Anibal said. “Knowing that (the Sports Lottery) is here may help bring them back the next time they’re trying to decide where to go.”
According to the state, casinos and retailers serving as lottery agents profited by approximately $3.5 million this season.
Delaware’s three casinos/sports books — Dover Downs, Harrington and Delaware Park — made approximately $2.4 million, while other retailers had a $1.1 million haul, according to officials. Also, the horse racing industry gained just over $1 million for its coffers.
Sales made were nearly split among retailers (54 percent) and casinos (46 percent). Nearly all of the wagers — 92.5 percent — were made during the regular season, with 1.75 percent in preseason, and 5,75 percent during the playoffs.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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