Dover Downs casino to be open on Christmas

DOVER — For the first time since Delaware approved slot machines in 1994 you can legally gamble on Christmas.

Included in the casino relief bill approved at the end of June was a little-noticed provision allowing Delaware’s three casinos to operate on Christmas and Easter.

Because Dover Downs is Delaware’s only casino with a hotel the change is expected to have more impact for it than Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway & Casino, neither of which will be open Dec. 25.

“We always had people complain here when they arrive around the holidays,” said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Downs.

The shift was something Dover Downs had been seeking for about five or six years, according to Mr. McGlynn. Executives mentioned it as one option during negotiations with the state over the financial relief package earlier this year.

Mr. McGlynn said more than 300 of the hotel’s rooms have already been booked for Christmas, an increase over years past.

He declined to estimate how much money the casino was losing by not opening on the two holidays, saying he couldn’t put an accurate figure on it.

With the change, the casinos can now be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Though it probably won’t bring about a windfall for the casino, every bit helps for a business that has been struggling for a decade due to competition from neighboring states and tax rates that executives have described as unduly high.

“People don’t understand the magnitude of the expense of this kind of operation, and even though we got some modicum amount of relief, a lot of it went away with the minimum wage increase, increased health care costs, increased payments to slot vendors,” Mr. McGlynn said.

The limitation was put in place when the General Assembly first legalized video gambling to make the proposal more acceptable to gambling skeptics. The original bill prohibited the casinos from operating between 2 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sundays and between 2 a.m. and 8 p.m. all other days.

Those restrictions were changed over time “as people got more and more comfortable with this type of operation and the contributions we make to the state,” Mr. McGlynn said.

 

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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