New bill revives Delaware casino expansion plan

The effort to add two new casinos in Delaware is still alive this legislative session.

With an earlier attempt to expand gaming in Delaware stalled, Rep. Dennis E. Williams (D-Talleyville) announced Tuesday that he will file legislation this week to authorize two additional casinos in Delaware, one each in New Castle and Sussex counties.

The new proposal, which will be formally filed on Thursday, differs in a couple areas from House Bill 40, which remains tabled in the House Gaming & Pari-mutuelsCommittee. Instead of a governor-appointed five-member commission, the new bill would create a nine-member committee comprised of three appointments each from the governor, Senate president pro-tem and House speaker.

No more than two of each set of appointments can be of the same political party, and each member must have at least 10 years of experience in business or government, or education in the areas of finance, accounting or banking.

“We need jobs. That is the primary goal of this legislation,” Williams said. “The fact that we as a state would get additional revenue is a bonus, but this is primarily about jobs. For all the talk about increasing employment, nothing out there could bring the volume of jobs as quickly as a project like this.”

Ever since talk of expanding the gaming industry in Delaware began, casino operators have maintained that additional venues would do more harm than good.

Speaking at a regional casino conference in Atlantic City, Dover Downs president Ed Sutor says expansion would worsen an already saturated market and force one of the state’s three existing casinos to close.

He says Delaware has one slot machine for every 19 residents, which is just too much.

Williams said the criteria in his proposal are more objective and finance-driven, which will increase the fairness and transparency of the process. He hopes to have the bill heard in committee shortly after session reconvenes next week and have the legislation enacted before the session recesses on June 30.


Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal