Examining the Idea to Bring a New Casino to Sussex County - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Examining the Idea to Bring a New Casino to Sussex County

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

MILLSBORO, Del. (WBOC) - There's a push to put more casinos in Delaware. But is there room for more on the peninsula? It depends on who you ask.

According to local politicians, more than seven million people come to the Delaware beaches every year. Sussex County has shopping, restaurants, hotels, but no casino. Look elsewhere, though, and there are plenty of options. There are currently 22 casinos within 100 miles of Sussex County: three in Delaware, four in Pennsylvania, 12 in Atlantic City and three in Maryland. Plus, there's another casino being built in Baltimore, and another has been approved right outside Washington DC.

Developer Gene Lankford says there is absolutely room for a casino in Sussex County.

"If we had only one casino in the state, only one, it should be down at the resorts," he said.

Lankford wants a casino on a plot of land in Millsboro, fifteen minutes from the beaches.

"The state is missing a huge bet here and I'm convinced of it," Lankford said. "I think it will happen, the state needs the revenue, the county needs the jobs, and we need to get this done."

Lankford wants to bring a casino to Millsboro, but developers have expressed interest in bringing casinos to Georgetown, or even Delmar. But it's north of those towns in Dover where politicians will decide if a casino is to come to Sussex County.

Rep. Dennis Williams, D-Talleyville put forth a bill this past spring and back in 2011 to bring casinos to both New Castle and Sussex Counties. He wants to see $250 to 300 million casinos, resort destinations in Delaware. For Sussex County he says you build a casino by the beach.

"You'll be able to draw more people. That's why new venues will generate more traffic than the other three casinos."

House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, is for a Sussex County casino but says first Williams' bill needs the votes to pass.

"We're supposed to be making decisions that are best for our state, not protecting three casinos," he said.

Rep. Schwartzkopf says past legislation to add casinos to Delaware was killed.

"The lobbying group," he said. "The casino lobbying group, was the strongest we've ever seen in this building."

It's no secret Delaware's casinos don't want more company.

"We have in the past expressed our opinion that additional casinos are not needed and that's even more so today," said Ed Sutor, CEO of Dover Downs.

Sutor says a casino in Sussex County would only further dilute an already over-saturated market.

"As soon as one opens, it doesn't grow to market, it cannibalizes what already exists."

Lankford, Rep. Williams and Rep. Schwartzkopf disagree with Sutor. They believe a Sussex County casino would tap into a new customer base.

"If you have three gas stations in your state and you want to make more money, you put a fourth gas station," said Rep. Schwartzkopf. "You might draw some from the other areas they're already getting from, but you're also drawing some who aren't going to those three gas stations."

It comes down to demand. Lankford says feasibility studies show the demand is there. Politicians are saying it's bigger than that. Delaware needs more jobs, and the number one reason they're for casino creation is the promised two to six thousand jobs that would come along with a casino to Sussex County.

If Delaware's fourth casino is to come to Sussex County, it all rests with Rep. Williams' bill, which got stuck in committee back in June, but could easily come back up again where lawmakers head back to Dover in January.

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