Dover Downs Casino closes poker room

DOVER — Now under new management, Dover Downs has closed its poker room.

The casino, which became part of Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc. at the end of March, moved its poker tables to the casino floor last week.

Despite rumors the entire poker staff had lost its jobs, only one person was laid off, according to casino management.

“Today is our first day of poker on the floor, so we do have poker! There will be NO poker room on the third floor anymore. The Poker tables now on the Casino floor answer to table games and no longer operate as a separate entity,” Nicholas Polcino Jr., the new vice president and general manager, said in a statement Friday.

“All other personnel (Poker Director is no longer with the company) that could be transferred to table games were transferred. The employees that only had poker experience have been given the opportunity to learn other games as well so they are able to transfer between various games if they desire.”

As a result of the closure poker tournaments were canceled several weeks ago, according to casino staff.

Located on the third floor, the room formerly used for poker once served as a place for individuals to watch simulcast horse racing.

A spokeswoman for Twin River initially denied the poker room was closing. A second spokeswoman later confirmed the room would no longer host table games.

The deal with Twin River, a Rhode Island-based company that operates casinos and hotels in Rhode Island and Mississippi and a horse track in Colorado, was announced in July just weeks after lawmakers approved tax relief for the state’s three casinos.

The merger included Dover Downs’ 500-room hotel and banquet hall. Dover International Speedway remains owned by Dover Motorsports, which split off from the gaming company in 2002.

Supporters said the changes — lowering the slot tax rate 1 percent, cutting the table game tax rate almost in half and suspending the $3 million table game license fee — were necessary to help protect jobs and the nine-figure sum the state annually receives from the casinos.

State Sen. Trey Paradee, a Dover Democrat who was one of the chief backers of casino tax relief, said Friday he would be disappointed if layoffs follow the merger but believes the legislation approved last year was good policy.

“We really put them in the position (where) they were just treading water,” he said.

The casino, the only public corporate gambling establishment in Delaware, lost money in two of the last five years and made a net profit of $30,000 in 2018.

At the end of 2018, Dover Downs had 1,388 employees, 906 of whom were full-time.

Several top executives with Dover Downs were let go or retired earlier this spring.

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