05/12/2009 11:00PM

New gambling seen in Delaware


Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is expected to sign legislation passed this week that will legalize table games and a kind of sports betting at Delaware three's racetracks but also increase the state's take from the tracks' slot machines.

The bill, which passed in the state senate Tuesday night by a vote of 17-2, will allow the three racetracks, including the state's only Thoroughbred track, Delaware Park, to offer craps, roulette, and blackjack, and will also allow the tracks to sell tickets for a lottery-type sports bet. The state, however, will now receive 43.5 percent of the revenue from the tracks' slot machines, up from 37 percent.

Racetrack-casino owners, including Delaware Park, lobbied against the bill in the House because of provisions that would have allowed three new casinos to be built in the state. That provision, however, was stripped out of the bill.

Bill Fasy, the chief operating officer of Delaware Park, said that the bill will have a negative impact on Delaware Park financially because of the low margins of table games and the increase in the state's take of slot machines revenue.

"Be that as it may, we have what we have, and we'll do the best that we can," Fasy said.

According to Scott Peck, the president of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the state will now take back approximately 10 percent of the horsemen's $25 million annual subsidy each year as part of its larger share of the slots revenue.

Peck said competition from tracks currently receiving subsidies from slot machines in neighboring states such as Pennsylvania was already putting pressure on field sizes at the track, which cut 20 days of live races from its meet this year to maintain average purse levels.

"If they keep cutting days and purses, we're going to be in trouble," Peck said.

Peck said, though, that horsemen were optimistic that they would receive a share of the revenue from the sport bets. The current law splits the revenue 50-50 between the track and state.

"As long as we get our cut, we'll be fine," he said.