History of Gaming on Delmarva - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

History of Gaming on Delmarva

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(Photo: MGN) (Photo: MGN)

By Mike Chesney, WBOC

Gambling on the East Coast started in 1978 with Atlantic City. Dreams came true and were shattered. Casinos hit the jackpot or went belly up at the new Las Vegas of the East. For people on Delmarva who wanted a weekend or a night at the tables, Atlantic City was the only close option for nearly 20 years.

It was in 1995 that Delaware wanted a piece of the action. Lawmakers authorized slot machines at three racetracks to save the state's horseracing industry. First came Delaware Park and Dover Downs. Eight months later Harrington racetrack introduced slots.

The casinos did well for the first 10 years. They were a closer choice for millions of people from the Mid-Atlantic who didn't want to travel to Atlantic City. Then new competition came from West Virginia, which authorized slots in 1997 - just over the Maryland line in Charlestown.

But for the first 10 years, Delaware casinos and the state made a lot of money. It was Pennsylvania's entrance into slots that changed things.

"Ever since 2007 when Pennsylvania opened," said Ed Sutor, Dover Downs CEO, "Delaware has not had a year of growth. The first year Delaware park got hit real hard because Harris Chester was only fifteen minutes away right on route 95."

Delaware then upped the ante in 2009. The state introduced limited sports betting. It wasn't a big money maker. A year later came table games. Adding to the competition was maryland. The state has opened four casinos since 2011, including Ocean Downs and Maryland Live! near Annapolis.

"We had Ocean Downs open down south and that hurt Harrington a lot because they were drawing from that market," Sutor said. "But the one that opened up recently, Maryland live that really hit Dover Downs. I mean we get 50 percent of our business from Maryland so that hit us the hardest. And the percentage we're down is over 20 percent, between 20 and 25 percent set of our revenues are down since Maryland Live opened a little over two years ago."

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