Millions bet in Delaware’s online casinos’ first month

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Nearly 3,000 Delawareans registered to bet on the state’s new online casino portals, wagering nearly $4 million in the first month since the games went online.

Through the first month of onling gambling in Delaware, about 2,800 residents registered and deposited money to play and, as of Dec. 1, those gamblers wagered about $3.8 million dollars in internet games.  

“It’s been going very well,” said State Lottery Director Vernon Kirk, who says he had no idea what kind of action the casinos would see in their first month online.  “It seems encouraging, especially the ability to continually and steadily add new registrants, new depositors every day.”  

While encouraging, Kirk says the state’s numbers pale in comparison with New Jersey. Garden State casinos started offering online gambling last month as well. 

“They’re not New Jersey-esque, but we’re operating with a different player base [compared to New Jersey].” 

Poker play

Going into it, Kirk expected to have difficulty finding enough players to have competitive poker games on a consistent basis, but the online poker tables have been the most popular.  “Most of the play is in poker, and blackjack is a pretty good second.”

Before the launch, Kirk expected Delaware’s small size to limit growth of poker play.  The state is exploring the possibility of teaming up with Nevada, New Jersey, or even another country to allow poker players from those locations to play against each other.  That would require an interstate compact agreeement and will take time to develop.  

He says the online slots will probably get busier as more games are added to the casinos’ offerings, especially games that already exist on the floors at the physical casinos that gamblers may be more familiar with.  

Not without problems

As seen in the difficulties of launching the Affordable Care Act website, the initial launch of any website is not without its problems; and online gaming in the state is no different.  

Some players have had difficulty depositing money into the system so they can make bets.  “The credit card companies have been a little slower to come around,” said Kirk.  

He says the problem stems from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006, which changed the way credit card charges were coded online.  A 2011 opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice made it clear that law only applied to “unlawful internet gambling,” not gambling sites approved by state law.  That opinion paved the way for states like Delaware to launch online games, but working out the kinks in processing payments has been a slow process.

That’s because some credit card companies, and even more so banks, are not entirely comfortable processing transactions for online gambling.  The biggest problem has been with gamblers trying to pay via Visa.  Just 20 percent of those transactions have gone through, while about 80 percent of MasterCard payments have been approved.  

Kirk says they’ve learned debit transactions have been nearly 100 percent successful in getting approved.

Location, location, location

Another big problem early in the month was Delaware residents who could not log on to the games because the websites were incorrectly registering them as being out of state.  “That was an issue, mostly Verizon [customers] for us, mostly in the northern part of the state,” Kirk said.  

The problem was caused by the internet traffic for those Verizon customers being routed through the company’s hub in Philadelpha.  That raised a red flag for the system because state law requires gamblers to be physically within Delaware’s borders while betting online.

Kirk believes that issue has mostly been resolved.  “We got together with our technology partners and Verizon and got that issue squared away.  I don’t think there are IP issues at the moment.”

What’s next

Kirk is optimistic that, after a somewhat soft launch month, the numbers of players and the amount wagered will continue to grow.  But he’s not ready to predict what a “normal” month will be.  “Establishing a baseline is usually pretty important in these types of analyses, but we didn’t have much to go on.”  

He says plans are in the works to draw more gamblers.  “There are more advertisements and approaches to come, but quite honestly, the initial approach was on making sure everything worked really well.”  

Kirk says the State Lottery will release more detailed information on the numbers in the near future.

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