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Still No Recommendations on Gaming Industry from Del. Commission

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Coming to just one recommendation may not be in the cards for the commission examining Delaware's ailing gambling industry.

The casinos have had a difficult financial time for a number of years, with profits way down. The Lottery and Gaming Study Commission has spent five months looking at ways to turn things around.

Monday's meeting was a long-awaited one for stakeholders. Members would put their chips on the table - what do they think Delaware should do. They owe a recommendation to the Delaware General Assembly by the end of the month. But one recommendation may, instead, become multiple suggestions.

Commission members looked at a number of options at the meeting. Most of them dealt with how gambling revenues are split between the casinos, the state and the horsemen. And most of them came from Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover.

"There are lots of different ways to skin this cat," he said. "I think between now and the next commission meeting, maybe a lot of us can sit back and think about that."

Among the options is going back to way slot machine revenue was split in 2009. Already facing tough budget projections, that would cost the state $25 million next year. Splitting the slot machine vendor fees differently would cost the state $7 million. Splitting table games differently would be $7 million. Eliminating an annual table game fee would run $3 million. And changing the igaming split comes in at $2 million.

State Finance Sec. Tom Cook, who chairs the commission, is a fan of changing the vendor fee split.

"I think the fair and equitable way to do this is to have all of us share the cost, take that off the top," he said.

Members could go with any combination of those or something completely different. At Monday's meeting they couldn't come to an agreement. Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, says doing that is essential.

"We've been put on this committee," he said. We need to make recommendations to the general assembly of how we should move forward."

"We'll either have specific recommendations," said Sen. Bushweller. "Or we'll be specific enough in our assessment that the state needs to do something - and we need to do it this year. Either one, I think, will be helpful to the general assembly."

There was also discussion that any financial concession given to the casinos should have to go to investment in new amenities to attract customers.

The commission meets again in two weeks. It's possible there will be a recommendation come out of that meeting. The legislature is back in session next week.

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