Casino issue greets Delaware lawmakers as session resumes

    A vote on a bill that would expand gambling in Delaware could happen any day. Opponents were at Legislative Hall Tuesday to voice their concerns.

    Just a few steps inside Legislative Hall in Dover Tuesday afternoon and it was clear what the hot issue will be in the coming days: casino expansion.

    About three dozen workers from Wilmington’s Delaware Park greeted lawmakers as they returned from a six-week break. The workers — ranging from security personell to top management, and sporting “Three is Enough” buttons — were there to protest a bill that would allow a limited number of new casinos in the state.

    Delaware Park President Bill Fasy says if gaming is allowed to expand, the state’s three existing casinos will suffer and jobs will be lost. Fasy says that’s the message his workers will spread in Legislative Hall.

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    “We will politely and professionally communicate to the number of people in this building that we think are on the fence or thinking about voting yes and my employees are going to visit them,” he said.

    House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth) is the sponsor of the bill. The original version only included the Del Pointe casino project in Millsboro, which has a horse-racing license. But Schwartzkopf acknowledged Tuesday that he has already met with an attorney to change the language to include two new casinos.

    “I’m willing to make this thing look more open, more transparent,” he said.

    A compromise bill, he says, would involve a two-step process.

    “The first step will be that we take a vote that we’re going to bring two new casinos here, one in the north (New Castle County) and one in the south (Sussex County),” he said. “And then we’re going to set the criteria in the bill and then we will establish a committee that would pick the best (projects).”

    The bill would need 21 votes to pass in the House. The bill is currently “laid on speaker’s table,” which means it could come up for vote at any time. Schwartzkopf says the vote will likely take place before the two-week break for Easter.

    The bill would then need approval by the Senate. But Sen. Anthony DeLuca (D-Varlano) who is the Senate President Pro Tem, says it’s too early to anticipate how the Senate would respond.

    “For us to comment on it is kind of premature,” he said. “Because we’re commenting on a package that we don’t even know is going to be here.”

    Asked if he had the required 21 votes in the House, Schwartzkopf said it looks “very good.”

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