Delaware lawmakers are taking no pity on three casinos in the state that say they are being cannibalized by out of state competition.
Senate Bill 30 was introduced in January to give Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, and Delaware Park up to $46 million in tax and fee breaks – but the bill has not advanced and is unlikely to be taken up this year as currently written.
The relief would be spread over two years with the first phase providing about $15 million in breaks. It has been called a “bail-out” by opponents who say the state has far more pressing budget issues to worry about.
The Delaware state Lottery and Gaming Study Commission recommended the package but the bill has yet to be heard by the Senate Finance Committee. A hearing is needed before the bill could move to the senate floor.
“Right now, it’s not a priority, but we’ll see how things unfold,” Chairman Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington said.
“The last thing any of us need is them down here when we’re trying to fix the budget,” said House Majority leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City. “No one is talking about casinos right now.”
Longhurst has never supported the bill but earlier tried to offer an alternative that was unacceptable to casino executives.
Dover Downs posted a 2.5% decline in revenues for the first quarter and has eliminated 24 jobs, closing overnight table games.
Casinos are the largest generators of revenue in the state and executives caution that inaction could cost not only the economy but state coffers in the long run.
With revenues dropping casinos are finding it difficult to reinvest in capital projects. Nearby MGM National Harbor is scheduled to open next year in Oxin Hill, Maryland. Hard Rock International is seeking approval for a casino in east Rutherford New Jersey at The Meadowlands. Both developments will place further pressure on the state’s casinos to succeed.