Full-blown sports betting starts in Delaware, other states close behind

Legal wagering is now within driving distance of three major East Coast cities.

David Madden
June 05, 2018 - 10:35 am
 In this May 14, 2018, file photo, men watch horse racing on an array of screens at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File


DOVER, Del. (KYW Newsradio, AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney ushered in a new era of gaming at Dover Downs on Tuesday, making the first legal sports bet outside of Nevada.

The market for legal sports gambling in the United States widened significantly on Tuesday with expanded betting in Delaware, putting legal wagering within driving distance of three major East Coast cities less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to accept the bets.

Instead of flying to Las Vegas or betting illegally, fans in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington can make a short drive to legally bet in Delaware on the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Final or the World Cup. More states, including New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia are likely to join the action by the time the NFL starts its season in the fall.

Delaware was ready for this moment a decade ago when parlay bets on football were approved. Carney was a little reluctant to gloat about beating New Jersey, which fought the legal fight to get to this point.

"The New Jersey legislature is going to vote, maybe soon," Carney said. "I don't expect we'll be the only one for very long. But today it feels pretty good to be first."

"Giants and Yankees, all day, every day," Manhattan native Karriem Keys said Tuesday after betting on the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl next year.

Keys, 53, who now lives in Dover, was one of a couple of dozen people laying down early wagers at the Downs as Delaware became the first state outside Nevada to offer legal gambling on individual sporting events.

"In New York, we would go right to the corner store, to the bodega, and bet," Keys said. "That's not legal, but, you know, everybody was doing it. But now it's legal so it's great."

As for that first bet, Carney made no secret of the fact he is a Philadelphia fan through and through.

"My staff right now is very, very nervous that I'm going to break out into the Eagles fight song," he said.

He didn't, but he did put $10 down on the Phillies to beat the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

Delaware Gov. John Carney places a $10 bet on the Phillies.
John Madden/KYW Newsradio

Dover Downs casino workers took in 36 bets within the first 20 minutes of legal wagering. The offerings at Delaware's three casinos include bets on professional baseball, football, hockey, basketball, soccer, golf and auto racing.

"I just had to get in on the action, you know what I mean?" John Celatka of Dover said after betting on Tuesday night's Colorado Rockies game and Wednesday night's NBA Finals game.

Celatka said he's done pretty well with NFL parlay wagers and single-game wagers was a logical next step.

"I'm excited to get started with football season," he said. "I like my chances."

Delaware brings in about $200 million a year in tax revenue through gaming. That could be reduced as other states bring on sports betting. New Jersey could have a system up and running before the end of the week that resolves competing proposals to allow sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks. 

Pennsylvania also prospectively legalized sports betting last year, but it could be months before regulations are in place that would allow sports books to open. State officials have not produced an estimate of what sort of tax revenue the activity could mean for Pennsylvania, which already rakes in more in taxes on casino gambling than any other state. But some gambling industry officials are warning that Pennsylvania's 34 percent tax rate — plus another small cut for local governments that host casinos — and the $10 million licensing fee will make it unprofitable to run a legal sports betting business.

In the meantime, Pennsylvania gaming officials notified casinos last week they could begin applying for licenses. So far, none has submitted an application.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.