The first type of recorded gambling in the first state took place in horse races all the way back in the 1700s. In fact, the first racetrack in Delaware was built way back in 1760. Betting wasn’t legal at the time, but remained widespread regardless. However, residents would have to wait over 300 years before additional forms of regulated gambling were even considered. Pari-mutuel betting gained approval from lawmakers in the 1930s, lottery didn’t make its debut until 1975 and casino-style games weren’t present at the state’s racetracks until just a few years ago in 2010.
State Regulated Gambling
Though it is a small state, Delaware plays host to a large amount of state-regulated gambling. Article II Section 17 of the Delaware Constitution of 1897 states all forms of gambling are prohibited in the State, except for certain forms of lotteries, racetrack betting, and bingo games. Bingo games are allowed when they are sponsored and conducted by Volunteer Fire Companies, Veterans’ Organizations, Religious or Charitable Organizations, or by Fraternal Societies, and the funds raised from these Bingo games stays within the organization, or is used for the promotion of the organization.
Essentially, the Delaware’s constitution prohibits all gambling except for the state lottery, certain offerings at racetracks, and a limited list of charitable gambling (such as fire houses and veterans organizations). However, Delaware does not have a definition of “gambling” in its state law. Given that lack, their definition of “gambling device” is instructive for those wondering what is and isn’t allowed under Delaware state law: “any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment which is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether the activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine.” The fantastic growth in Delaware gambling has primarily stemmed from the state’s “racinos” (race tracks that permit casino gambling) where you can play poker, table games and video lottery terminals. Delaware also offers one option you won’t find in many other states: sports betting (parlay only) at state racetracks.
Online Gambling in Delaware
Things become a bit murkier in Delaware when venturing into the world of online gambling. Delaware also makes it a crime to own a gambling device; it is a Class A misdemeanor, according to Section 1405. It is not clear whether this definition of a “gambling device” could extend to any electronic device used for online gambling and online power, such as a laptop or a smartphone. Thus, thanks to outdated state codes that don’t interact directly with new technologies, online gambling is a notoriously tricky area of the law.
Though it is a smaller state, Delaware has played a large role in the development of modern online gambling. While Delaware did make national news as one of the first states to pass a law legalizing some online gambling, they become the first state to have regulated online gambling (no just poker) on October 31, 2013. Delaware was also the first US state to pass a law regulating most online gambling in 2012, thanks to Governor Jack Markell signing the Gaming Competitive Act of 2012 into law.
Scientific Games and 888 Holdings were chosen as the primary online gaming service vendors. The 3 racinos in Delaware launched free versions of casino slot games on Facebook in late 2013. Although demand for playing online poker is high, successful gambling platforms don’t just require demand, but consistent demand. Of course all poker players are required to be physically located in the state borders, which has a population of less than 1 million and can only bring in 7 million tourists annually.
Casinos in Delaware
Some popular land-based casinos in Delaware:
- Delaware Park Racetrack & Slots
- The Delaware Poker Room
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Raceway & Casino
- Denison, D. (2013, August 21). Delaware’s 3 casinos launch free online gaming. Retrieved from USA Today
- Gentile, M. (2013, October 22). Delaware to Launch Internet Gambling October 31. Retrieved from PokerFuse.com
- Bill HB 333. (2012, June 28) Authorizes Online Gambling Legislation. Retrieved from VoteSmart.org