DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware's largest casino is preparing to push back against revived plans to put more casinos in the First State.
A bill to allow Delaware to have two more casinos - one in Sussex County and one in New Castle County - will soon be in front of state lawmakers. That is not sitting well with Dover Downs Casino and Hotel. Ed Sutor, the casino's president and CEO, says the state can't handle any more casinos - with Dover Downs, Harrington and Delaware Park The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville, disagrees and says his plan is about jobs.
Dover Downs used to be a massive money maker. But Sutor says as more gambling options have appeared in Pennsylvania and Maryland, that's changed.
"For the first time in our history, we lost money in the 4th quarter of the year 2012 and again in the first quarter of this year."
Sutor says while only his casino, as a public company, is required to report its earnings, he's heard from executives at Harrington and Delaware Park their financial situation is similar to his at Dover Downs. He calls the market fully-saturated and thinks two more casinos in Delaware would only make things worse.
"I couldn't imagine what two more casinos in this small state would do," he said. "But clearly it's too much. Three is enough."
"If the market was saturated, we wouldn't have seen Harrah's in Chester and Anne Arundel and Hollywood. There is a huge market here," said Rep. Williams. "This is a jobs bill. This has always been about creating more jobs. I've been convinced from the beginning that we can add several thousand jobs.
"It may for the short term," Sutor said. "But once they are up and operating, it will probably lead to loss of jobs at the existing casinos. There simply aren't enough people in this small state."
Sutor doesn't think there's the support at Legislative Hall to pass this bill. Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, whose district includes Dover Downs, is strongly opposed to more casinos.
"All we're going to do is spread very few gambling dollars around in more places. We'll end up with nothing more than a few cheap, local gambling houses that will serve nobody's interest."
Rep. Williams will officially introduce the bill Tuesday. It will have a hearing in the House Gaming & Pari-Mutuels Committee Wednesday. If passed, the bill would create a nine member committee to determine the exact locations of the casinos in Sussex and New Castle Counties. Those locations would be based on several items including lottery revenue, financial and economic impact on surrounding communities, and estimated personal income tax revenue.
The talk of adding casinos to Delaware has been around for a while. Back in 2005, Rep. Joseph DiPinto introduced a bill to add casinos in Wilmington. That bill never got out of committee. And in 2011 Rep. Williams introduced nearly identical legislation to his proposal this year, but that bill never got out of committee either.