The state of Delaware has long enjoyed a close relationship with sports betting as well as other forms of gambling. They’ve been on the forefront of the legalization movement for decades now and, along with New Jersey, were responsible for forcing the federal government’s hand on the matter. Soon after the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, unconstitutional early in 2018, Delaware became the first state to accept a legal sports wager outside of Nevada. Delaware sports betting is now available at three sportsbooks in the state, one at each of its casinos. Expansion continues, however, as the state plans to deliver more licenses and offer online options as well.
As one of the oldest states, Delaware has been involved in gaming, lotteries, and horse racing since colonial times. Today, all gambling in the state falls under the oversight of the Delaware Lottery, which now includes legalized sports betting. For Delaware, it was only a matter of time, as legalized sports betting has been on their radar for years now.
Delaware officially got into the game in 1976 when they expanded their sports betting industry as the lottery instituted a parlay play system for betting on the results of multiple sporting events. This allowed them to dodge the outlawed “single game” betting. The product lasted just one season. However, it was enough to earn Delaware a partial exclusion from the federal ban more than 15 years later when the PASPA took effect and essentially outlawed sports betting in the US. Nevada, of course, was also spared. Delaware later re-instituted the parlay play wagering, laying the tracks for even more expansion.
In 2009, Governor Jack Markell pushed an effort to expand the state’s existing parlay play wagering system, which was run by their lottery, into a total sports betting operation. The major sports leagues quickly brought suit against the state by, of course, citing PASPA. Although the Delaware Supreme Court had ruled the state’s move was legal, federal courts soon disagreed. A United States Circuit Court provided the final ruling against the state, shutting down the proposed expansion. However, more suits from more states were coming. West Virginia and New Jersey would both begin their litigation on the matter. This issue was not going to go away.
Since June of 2018 Delaware has moved full steam ahead with sports betting being fully regulated in the state.
Gov. Markell then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. However, the high court declined to hear the state’s arguments. Had the court taken the case, we might be talking about Markell the same way we now talk about former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who successfully challenged PASPA and ultimately lead to it being overturned. That happened in the spring of 2018, and it’s been full steam ahead ever since for most states—especially states like Delaware who’ve been working to legalize sports betting for some time.
Following the SCOTUS decision, state officials conducted a review of the legal climate and existing laws in Delaware to determine if the state would be able to offer sports betting. The group determined that no further legislative work was needed for Delaware to move forward as the statehouse had long since done everything to ensure sports betting was fully regulated. This cleared the way for a quick launch in June of 2018, only a few months after the Supreme Court’s decision.
On the last day of May, then-Governor John Carney confirmed those expectations as he issued a press release announcing June 5, 2018 as the target date for launch, a timeline that ultimately proved accurate.
Brick and Mortar Sportsbooks
Sports betting in Delaware is limited to the state’s three casinos:
- Delaware Park Casino
- The Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
- The Harrington Raceway & Casino
They are the only places to house sportsbook thus far. They are essentially all functioning as one combined license that is regulated by Delaware’s Lottery. This may be a tentative situation, though, as legal sports betting in Delaware is sure to expand. There are many other venues, such as racetracks, who would like to apply for licenses. The state also wants to address the need for online and mobile options. Being first to the finish line was very important to Delaware, and they were able to achieve just that. However, it has left them with a few more T’s to cross and I’s to dot. Expanding their brick and mortar reach, securing a licensure system, and launching online platforms are all on the state’s to-do list and will surely be addressed as soon as possible.
Delaware is new to the sports betting game and online sportsbooks are inevitably on the way.
While online sports betting in now legal in Delaware, it is not yet available. Much like every other state outside of Nevada, Delaware is new to this whole industry and simply hasn’t had the time to get every aspect of legal sports gambling up and running. That said, Delaware is far from done with adding as many sports gambling products as they can. Since they are located in the mid-atlantic/northeast corridor of the U.S., they are going to have a ton of competition from nearby states, especially when New York state joins the fray sometime in 2019 or 2020. With three sportsbooks already in action and more on the way, online options are inevitable.
Even though Delaware sports betting is completely legal, offshore sportsbooks are still illegal. Sports betting in Delaware, just as every type of legal gambling in the state, is highly regulated by their Lottery. Some offshore sportsbooks and gambling sites are cleverly disguised to look like the real thing and even advertise as such but make no mistake—they’re still illegal. As mentioned, online gambling is not available as of yet in Delaware, so any site saying as much is not to be trusted.