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Delaware ready for another round of sports betting expansion

Finding a place to gamble on NFL games in Delaware will be even easier this year. The state plans to double the number of retail venues where bets can be placed to about 60 this fall.

Last year, Delaware expanded sports betting beyond the state’s three casinos, allowing 31 retail sites up and down the state to take NFL parlay wagers.

The new venues took over 638,000 bets worth almost $6.4 million.

State Lottery Director Vernon Kirk says new venues did not hurt the casinos, which saw a seven percent increase in money wagered on NFL games last season from $17.8 million to $19.0 million. Kirk says that suggests that there is room for more venues that may draw new players and more money wagered.

The list of new sites has not been released yet by the state lottery office, but Kirk says they have kept an open mind about where to offer sports betting in this round of expansion.

“We’ve learned to not judge a book by its cover and sometimes you might think ‘well, that’s not going to be a great location’ but it turns out it really is. So, we haven’t limited ourselves,” said Kirk. “We’ve looked at floor traffic and stuff and so, again, restaurants and sports bars and also convenient stores and a variety of other places.”

Kirk adds that the venues added a year ago accounted for a 40 percent overall increase in the amount of money wagered last year – from $17.8 million in 2011 to $25.5 million in 2012, but that didn’t translate into more revenue for the State of Delaware. The state’s share of sports betting proceeds stayed flat at about $2.24 million, with nearly $573,000 coming from the new retail venues.

Kirk says the money generated by allowing parlay bets at sports bars, restaurants and convenience stores simply made up for a year in which bettors simply won more often.

“We had a phenomenal year of sales. I think sales are up somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent, without cannibalization of the three racetracks. They were up about seven percent. That’s sales – we’re at the mercy of the results of the games and how much people win and things so that kind of goes up and down, but as long as we keep selling a lot of tickets eventually it’ll all even out.”

Last year, Delaware’s Finance Secretary estimated that expanded NFL betting would increase revenues by $1.5 million.

The state will start taking bets for the 2013 season next month when NFL preseason games begin.