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Delaware (Again) Seeking Casino Expansion

18 January 2011 by admin

Delaware-quarterTiny Delaware, the first state to join the United States of America, is once again pushing for casino expansion, but are the plans too big for them? For the second straight year, lawmakers are set to introduce legislation that would allow the construction of two new casinos, but those plans face stiff opposition from many angles.

The most obvious problem is that 18 years ago, the state of Delaware passed a law banning casino expansion, limiting the casino industry to the three that currently exist. There is also a question about whether or not adding more casinos would actually improve their economy, not to mention push-back from the typical anti-gambling crowd.

schwartzkopf-peteAside from overturning the law allowing no new casinos to be built, the primary obstacle facing expansion is the question of where to put the casinos. Last year, lawmakers could not reach an agreement for specific locations, with the casinos to be somewhere in Sussex County and the city of Wilmington. This time, House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf wants to expand the area of consideration to all of New Castle County, rather than only inside the city limits of Wilmington. He’s hoping that will add a vote or two. It could also win over Governor Jack Markell, who last year said that they should not limit casinos to within the city limits.

Though that option pleases some, it could lose support of a key proponent of expansion. Last year’s bill was co-sponsored by Representative Dennis Williams, who represents Wilmington. He only wants a casino within the city, where his constituents live. That way, he could say he brought jobs to his district.

Since the entire state of Delaware is roughly the size of my boss’s backyard, it might be difficult to find a perfect place to locate the casinos. In recent years, there have been attempts to bring casinos closer to the beach to take advantage of beach traffic. Considering that the entire state is only up to 35 miles wide from east to west (yes, that statistic is true), I’m not sure any casino can be located too far from beach traffic.

In recent years, the casino industry as well as Delaware’s economy in general has been hindered by high taxes and the recession. Another problem, according to industry insiders, is competition from neighboring casinos in nearby states. If the legislature is going to allow more casinos to be constructed, they need to show that it would be a stimulus for the state’s economy. Those operating the current casinos, however, disagree.

Citing that they already have competition from the new casinos in Pennsylvania, Ed Sutor, President of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, said that “adding one or two more would just take the existing market and divide it up into smaller pieces.” Senator Bruce Ennis agrees, saying that adding the casinos would only “take jobs in current locations and place them elsewhere.”

Schwartzkopf’s bill would allow two new casinos to be built and would establish a five-member committee to go over the proposals and determine which contractors should get the licenses. The committee would be appointed by the governor.

Of course, none of this will matter if other plans for the state are approved. According to Disalmanac, a fake almanac of erroneous facts, there are plans to completely pave over the state of Delaware to provide parking for the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

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