Del. table games off to ‘encouraging’ start

    Games like blackjack, poker and craps have been offered for more than a month in Delaware. But fierce competition is now coming from Pennsylvania.

    First, there was the legislative fight to legalize table games with live dealers in the state of Delaware.

    That was followed by months of frantic preparation: renovating the casinos, and hiring and training hundreds of new employees.

    Then, beginning with the Memorial Day weekend, there was the gradual introduction of games like blackjack, craps and poker at the state’s three racinos.

    And now officials have finally had the chance to do something they’ve waited a long time to do — count their money.

    “We’re off to a pretty good start,” said Pete Bradley, vice president and general manager of casino operations at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

    Through June, the state’s share of revenue from table games at the three casinos was more than $720,000. The state made more than $400,000 during 31 days of operation at Harrington Raceway and Casino; more than $270,000 during 10 days of operation at Delaware Park; and about $50,000 at Dover Downs after only three days.

    Delaware’s finance secretary, Tom Cook, called those numbers “encouraging.”

    “First and foremost, the tracks and the state spent an incredible amount of time and effort making sure the implementation went smoothly, as it did, and that the proper safeguards are in place to protect everyone’s investment,” Cook said. “We were able to achieve this in a very short time period and now the racinos can focus their attention marketing their product which we feel will grow in popularity over time.”

    The challenge now for the casinos is to build that popularity at a time when Pennsylvania’s casinos are introducing table games.

    Bradley says it’s a competitive table game landscape with the well-established Atlantic City to go along with West Virginia and now Pennsylvania.

    “Pennsylvania hopefully will have a modest impact to Dover Downs as only a relatively small percentage of our business now comes from Pennsylvania,” he said.

    Officials are projecting $40.5 million in table games revenue for the state this fiscal year. That includes more than $11 million in franchise fees. Therefore, according to Cook, the state needs to average approximately $550,000 per week in revenue from table games.

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