Expanded sports wagering to start in June

 


Dover Downs, along with the state’s two other casinos, will have expanded sports betting including single-game betting starting in June. The casinos have been offering parlay betting since 2009. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Delaware announced Thursday it has been given the green light by officials to implement sports betting and hopes to launch new options, including single-game betting, within a matter of weeks. Expanded betting would only be available in the state’s three casinos.

“Following Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and consultation with the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, we are confident that Delaware has the legal and regulatory authority to authorize sports gaming in Delaware,” Secretary of Finance Rick Geisenberger said in a statement.

“The Delaware Lottery has had plans in place for months, and we will begin training lottery and casino staff early next week. We will continue to provide public updates as we prepare to launch full-scale sports gaming in Delaware next month.”

The Supreme Court earlier this week struck down a 26-year-old federal law that banned sports betting with limited exceptions for four states, including Delaware.

The First State authorized sports betting in 2009 but was sued by the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL and the NCAA two months later, leading to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruling Delaware could adopt sports gambling but in a limited form. Based on what it briefly offered in 1976, Delaware was able to launch multi-team wagers, known as parlay bets, on the NFL, but bets on individual NFL games or other sports were prohibited.

As a result of Monday’s ruling, individuals could soon be able to bet on a whole lot more, such as single baseball games, the World Cup or how many points NBA superstar LeBron James will score on a given night. Exactly what will be offered will be determined by what there is a market for, Mr. Geisenberger said in an interview.

Gambling on teams based in Delaware will not be allowed, however, meaning avid Blue Hens fans dead set on betting on their favorite school will have to hope another state offers bets on the University of Delaware.

While more than 100 gas stations, restaurants, liquor stores and other businesses currently offer parlay bets, they will not be allowed to expand to single-game or prop bets.

Asked how long it might take before retailers are approved to add options, Mr. Geisenberger said that may never be the case because the margins are much smaller in single-game bets.

“Candidly, it’s an ‘if ever,’ because I don’t know that the financials ever make sense except in very, very large volumes,” he said.

According to Dover Downs CEO and President Denis McGlynn, the “hold” — what the casinos make on bets — for parlays is around 30 percent, while it is less than 5 percent for wagers on individual games.

The Department of Finance will begin training lottery and casino staff next week with an eye toward starting full-scale sports gambling in June. Software will also need to be updated.

Mr. Geisenberger said he is unsure how much money Delaware may make off expanded betting.

The state has netted $8.59 million this year between casinos and retailers.

While some have speculated the legalization of full-scale sports betting could lead to millions more for Delaware’s three casinos, Mr. McGlynn believes the establishments could actually lose money.

“This is not something we’re going to get all excited about,” he said, noting the large difference in the hold for parlay and game bets.

The casinos are also unlikely to see substantial action until the fall, when pro and college football kick off. Betting on football and basketball far exceeds every other sport combined, Mr. McGlynn said, and with the NBA set to conclude its season by mid-June, there will be relatively few options for gamblers for several months.

According to the state, about $16.95 million has been bet on sports in Delaware casinos this year. Most of that was won back by players, with Delaware Park netting $1.23 million, Dover Downs taking in $420,000 and Harrington Raceway & Casino making a profit of $280,000. The rest went to the state or the horsemen.

Delaware may bring in residents of neighboring states initially, but that would almost certainly end if those states begin offering sports betting.

Following Monday’s court ruling, Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey, announced it planned to start sports betting May 28 but then backed off that after legislation that would prohibit any entity from offering such gambling until regulations are put in place was introduced in the New Jersey Legislature. That gives Delaware a temporary advantage.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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