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The first of the original thirteen states in the USA to ratify the United States Constitution, Delaware has more recently become the first state to launch a fully-operational online casino, with residents and visitors now able to access poker, slots, table games and lotteries in the virtual sphere. It managed to pip New Jersey to that mile marker by a couple of weeks, and although Las Vegas may be America’s gambling playground, Nevada’s state laws restrict its online gambling services to online poker. Delaware is now making the most of its opportunity to lead the online gambling market, setting the benchmark for its slower rivals.
The East Coast state took the first steps towards legal online gambling last June, when Democratic Governor Jack Markell signed off on the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012, soon after it narrowly passed through the state Senate with just over the 60% majority it required. Those for the campaign argued it was a necessary measure to allow Delaware’s burgeoning casino industry to compete with nearby New Jersey, while also offering the attractive prospect of more jobs in the process.
Soon after, Delaware’s three biggest casinos and race courses, or “racinos” as they are known, each successfully applied for a full online licence. By summer 2013 the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, Delaware Park, and the Harrington Raceway began offering free-to-play games as they began testing their online portals. Following a trial that launched in late October 2013, Delaware's first fully-operational online casino went live in the first week of November.
The Delaware State Lottery, the organisation that presides over the online gambling portal, issued the Rules and Regulations surrounding online gambling in September 2013. At present, the state gambling system is one, unified area, with each of the three casinos offering a self-branded entry into the gambling domain. The platform is, however, a joint venture between two big names in the online gambling industry - Scientific Games and 888 Holdings. Critics of the legislation have condemned the lack of player protection in the Lottery’s document, which, in their opinion, did nothing to tackle gambling problems or addiction.
Horse racing is one of the most popular betting sports in the state, as Delaware’s big three casinos all have a racetrack on their grounds. The Dover Downs Hotel and Casino also has the Dover International Speedway, which hosts two NASCAR races each year. Meanwhile, the Delaware Park is the only mid-Atlantic horse racing track to host Arabian races.
Although Delaware has no teams in the NFL, residents of the state still enjoy sports betting (limited to parlays), and often follow teams from neighbouring states such as the Philadelphia Eagles to the north, or the Baltimore Ravens to the West.
Delaware’s casinos are known more for hosting horse races than gambling tournaments, and while the big circuit games do not visit the state, each casino regularly hosts its own poker tournaments, such as the Delaware Park Poker Classic in May. Delaware law also allows Charitable Gambling to take place, meaning organisations approved by The Board of Charitable Gambling can (and often do) host regular poker tournaments.
The launch of full online gambling suites in Delaware has been deemed a moderate success, although Tom Cook, the state’s Secretary of Finance, took a more restrained view a few months before the launch. According to him, "This first phase will allow us to really get the players acclimated to the virtual world in a legalised environment," he said, before admitting, "We are being very cautious starting out here. As time goes on, just like any other revenue estimate, we will revise it." It was also revealed that the Video Lottery Advisory Council, which represents the three Delaware casinos, wished to renegotiate with the state to restructure how the revenue would be divided up. While online gambling may have arrived in Delaware, there is still far to go before it can claim to be the market leader. New Jersey has already overtaken it in terms of the sheer number of online operators, while Nevada is working towards the exciting process of cross-border online gambling.
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