Delaware introduces table games bill

    If Delaware plays its cards right, gamblers in the First State could face live dealers as early as June.

    The race to get table games up and running in Delaware is officially underway.

    Two bills were introduced simultaneously Friday afternoon at Legislative Hall in Dover — one for the House and one for the Senate — that would legalize table games like poker, craps and blackjack at the state’s three existing casinos.

    If Delaware plays its cards right, gamblers in the First State could face live dealers as early as June.

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    Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf (D – Rehoboth), the bill’s primary sponsor, says it was critical to introduce this legislation as quickly as possible for many reasons, but mainly to stay competitive with one of Delaware’s neighboring states.

    “The sooner we get this thing passed, the sooner we’re up and running and the sooner we’re competing head to head with Pennsylvania,” Schwartzkopf said.

    Pennsylvania just recently authorized the operation of table games and if Delaware is to keep pace, Schwartzkopf  says the legislation needs to be approved by the end of January.

    With a six-week break coming up at the end of the month, he says Delaware can’t afford a delay. It will take about five months to hire and train new casino workers, order and install new equipment and get new security measures in place.

    “If we don’t do it before January 30th we’re six weeks behind,” he said.

    The bill also establishes how the revenue would be split; 66.1 percent to the racinos, 29.4 percent for the state and 4.5 percent for the horsemen.

    It also sets an annual license fee of $13.5 million to be split by the racinos, in direct proportion to the amount of activity at each location.

    Despite the strained relations between the legislature, Gov. Jack Markell’s administration and the racinos, Schwartzkopf doesn’t anticipate any major problems. That’s because, he says, racino representatives were part of the process of writing the bill and agreed to the proposed revenue split and license fee.

    But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any issues.

    “Any time you deal in the House with 41 different personalities and 41 different ways of doing the same thing you never know,” Schwartzkopf said.

    Schwartzkopf says table games would generate $40 million for Delaware. He says it would also create 40 new jobs for the state and hundreds of jobs for the racinos, including many high-paying dealer positions.

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