Delaware Eyes Sports Betting Boost With Online Wagering Bill

Posted on February 15, 2016

Delaware has its sights set on more of a good thing when it comes to sports betting.

The Delaware Sports Lottery announced recently that sales of its NFL parlay cards grew by 4 percent in the 2015-16 NFL season compared with the 2014-15 season, which is certainly good news for the state.

But more growth is almost always better, which explains in part why a piece of sports betting legislation — S 183 — was introduced earlier this month. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), would allow for online sports betting via desktop and mobile devices among other changes and is meant to bolster Delaware’s gaming industry.

Passage of the bill would mean an expansion of sports betting in Delaware, which operates an NFL parlay game offered at three state sportsbooks and more than 100 retailers across the state.

Growth of sports betting in Delaware slowing?

Delaware, one of four states grandfathered from PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), relaunched its Pro Football Parlay Card Wagering system ahead of the 2009 NFL season. The state had even hoped to offer single-game betting, but ultimately lost a federal appellate court ruling.

Still, the results have been successful, growing total revenue from $10.9 million in the 2009-10 season to $39.4 million last year, according to the Delaware State News. And the state’s cut hit $5.7 million for this past NFL season.

The year-over-year growth, which was 28 percent in each of its first two years, has slowed significantly, though. And that has caused some to wonder if the state’s foray into sports betting has leveled off.

“I think we’re close to finding our ceiling … but it’s still an increase,” Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery, told the Delaware State News.

And with the state’s tax revenue from casinos dipping, some in Delaware have been looking for a way to boost gaming. That’s where the legislation could come in.

From S 183:

The Bill intends for the State to continue to benefit from video lottery proceeds, allows for continued employment at the State’s three video lottery facilities, and allows for the reinvestment of capital in those facilities to enable them to compete and remain vibrant tourism enterprises for the State. The Bill also provides for an expansion of the Internet lottery to include sports betting and allows video lottery agents to participate in all proceeds from the Internet lottery once administrative and vendor costs are paid.

A model for mobile in Nevada

Nevada is the only state where mobile sports betting is legal, of course. And a glimpse at the growth projections in the Silver State should attract notice in Delaware.

From 2012 through 2015, mobile sports betting grew from 13 percent of Nevada’s handle to 29 percent in 2015, according to an Eilers & Krejcik Gaming report released in January. And Eilers predicts that betting via mobile apps could grow to more than 51 percent of the state’s handle by 2020.

No doubt, Delaware sees an opportunity for growth, too. And the state already has iGaming in the form of online poker, which requires much of the same technology that mobile and online sports wagering does.

Implications of the Delaware bill

The first version of the bill, which did not include the online sports betting provision, was introduced in 2015 but did not gain much traction.

The sponsors of the bill this time around have have shown more confidence, though the split on the issue seems to fall more on geographic lines rather than party lines. (The bill’s co-sponsors include eight Republicans and five Democrats.)

Even if the bill is adopted and the effect is minimal within Delaware in the short term, the law change could set the stage for the future. Pending the outcome of this week’s New Jersey sports betting case rehearing, Delaware would likely jump at the opportunity to allow single-sport wagering.

That means if Delaware passes a bill that would allow online and mobile sports betting now, it would be one step ahead in getting up to speed with a mobile product if and when single-sport wagering becomes a possibility.

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Zack Hall

Zack Hall has been covering sports and business for more than 16 years as both a reporter and editor. He has won numerous awards with stops that include the Reno Gazette-Journal and the Bend Bulletin.

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