Delaware might not be the state you think of first when gambling comes to mind but they’ve always been very proactive in offering wagering opportunities for residents. The first horse racing facility in Delaware opened in 1760—over 25 years before it gained statehood. It’s worth noting that while the aforementioned race track didn’t offer an official betting component that ‘unofficial’ gambling was commonplace. Lottery gambling was also offered in the pre-Revolutionary war days. This became a bone of contention with the British Crown who felt they weren’t getting the ‘cut’ of the proceeds that they deserved.
The state’s gambling industry went dormant for awhile thanks to the Puritan influence but during the Great Depression a need for revenue generation led to the state creating a framework for parimutuel wagering. Delaware Park was opened in 1937 and remains a major player in horse racing to this day. The state also has Harrington Raceway which has the distinction of being the country’s oldest continuously operating harness track dating back to 1946. Dover Downs opened in 1969 and was designed to feature horse and auto racing. NASCAR’s top series (now called the Monster Energy Cup Series) has run at least two races a year on the 1 mile concrete oval which has been nicknamed ‘The Monster Mile’. The track continues to feature harness racing though the motorsports and gaming businesses are now run separately.
Delaware is one of four states exempted from the recently overturned 1991 ban on professional sports betting. In 2009, the state legalized sports betting and casino table games which allowed them to join Nevada, Oregon and Montana. Nevada already had sports betting, Oregon had previously run a NFL parlay card game through the state lottery and Montana had a legal framework for offering fantasy sports and racing games. Even though Delaware was technically exempt from Federal Law the professional sports leagues and the NCAA managed to limit their offerings to NFL parlays until the Supreme Court ruling in 2018.
It’s hard to believe but today Delaware offers all forms of gambling to their residents. They were the first state to host fully regulated online poker and casino games and the first to enter into a ‘liquidity sharing agreement’ with another state (Nevada) to make their online poker more attractive. Casino games are available at the three aforementioned racetracks including slots, poker and table games.
Delaware has a popular state lottery which offers a variety of draw games including the major multistate networked games (PowerBall, MegaMillions and LottoAmerica). Instant games are available in a variety of denominations as is keno with a new drawing offered every four minutes. The state lottery also operates video lottery terminals at the three big casinos. It is also running a sports based lottery offering parlay card style wagering on NFL games. The lottery is also responsible for oversight of the full sports betting operations offered at Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway.
The future may hold additional betting opportunities for Delaware residents. Governor John Carney authorized what he called “a full-scale sports gaming operation” less than a month after the 2018 Supreme Court ruling. There’s discussion about expanding the availability of sports betting to additional locations (most likely lottery retailers) and offering an online wagering platform.