03/24/2009 11:00PM

Delaware may expand betting


Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware has introduced a budget that foresees the state doubling the number of casinos, legalizing sports betting, and raising the tax rate for the state's existing casino-racetracks, including Delaware Park, by 22 percent.

Delaware racing interests held a press conference on Tuesday to publicize their opposition to the budget proposals, which they say would result in an oversupply of gambling opportunities in the state and surrounding region. Under the budget, Delaware would allow six casinos, bump up the tax rate from slot machines to 45 percent from 37 percent, and authorize sports betting at all six casinos and 10 other locations.

Although Delaware Park and the state's two harness tracks, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway, would be allowed to sell sports-themed lottery tickets and share in the revenue, track officials said on Tuesday that the tickets would hardly make up for the loss in revenue from increased competition and the higher tax rate.

Delaware is facing a $751 million budget deficit this year, and is looking to raise revenue from gambling to close part of the shortfall.

Delaware is one of four states in the United States that was exempted from a 1992 federal ban on sports betting because the state briefly ran a sports-themed lottery in the late 1970s. Legislators have so far been lukewarm to that part of Markell's proposal.