Delaware lottery officials betting on lucrative NFL season

Bettors watch horse races at the sports book parlor at Dover Downs casino in Dover. (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)

Bettors watch horse races at the sports book parlor at Dover Downs casino in Dover. (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)

Wednesday is the official kickoff of the NFL’s preseason schedule, which marks the start of another year of sports betting in Delaware.

Sports betting is a segment of the casino industry that’s seen growth in recent years. In addition to the state’s three casinos, more than 80 retailers will offer football betting starting Wednesday. Participating merchants include restaurants, pubs and stores that traditionally sell lottery tickets.

Delaware Lottery Director Vernon Kirk is optimistic that the number of bettors will continue to expand.

“We’ve seen amazing growth in the number of players, and winners, over the past few years,” Kirk said. “There were 81,388 winners in 2013 versus 55,841 winners in 2012.”

Nearly 1.3 million wagers were made during the 2013 NFL season, with a total of $13 million played. That resulted in about $900,000 in commission for retailers, nearly double the numbers from the 2012 season. That year, there were more than 638,000 wagers totalling $6.3 million played. Retail commissions for 2012 were approximately $605,000.

It’s been a rough few years for Delaware’s casino industry. The state’s three casinos are facing competition from every corner and have seen a continued decline in revenue. In June, state lawmakers approved a plan to split the vendor fee for slots, reducing the amount the casinos pay the state by nearly $10 million.

The one area of gambling the state still maintains a monopoly on is sports betting. Delaware is the only state east of the Mississippi where sports betting is legal, and lottery leaders are hopeful for continued growth.

“With the new quick pick option and even more sports lottery locations in 2014, It’s shaping up to be a very exciting year,” Kirk said. 

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