Casino expansion effort revived

Dennis Williams
Dennis Williams

In spite of a decline in gaming revenues and requests for the state to get a smaller piece of the action, a lawmaker has revived a plan to add to new casinos in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Dennis E. Williams, House Bill 135 would create a nine-member committee comprised of three appointments each from the governor, Senate president pro tempore and House speaker to determine the locations of the casinos. No more than two of each set of appointments can be of the same political party, and each member must have at least 10 years of experience in business or government, or education in the areas of finance, accounting or banking.

“This is a jobs bill, plain and simple,” said Rep. Williams, D-Talleyville. “We have talked about creating good-paying jobs since I was first elected, and this proposal will create thousands of jobs for construction workers and those who would work in the casinos. Nothing out there could bring such a volume of jobs as quickly as a project like this. We have an obligation as a government to remove obstacles preventing businesses from growing and creating jobs.”

Under the terms of the bill, a Lottery Economic Development Committee would be appointed within 30 days. Project applications would be submitted 90 to 120 days after the application process begins, and the committee must make its decision on the two locations – by majority vote – within 60 days of the submission deadline.

The committee would review each application and take into account the reasonableness of all estimates and the financial viability of each applicant. The committee’s decision for each location would be based on multiple criteria that includes the impact of a new site on existing casinos and the state economy.

The committee’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. The new casinos would not be required to offer horse racing.

Williams noted that Delaware’s existing three casinos have fought back previous attempts to expand gaming within the state.

Recently, Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, the only publicly traded casino company in Delaware, posted a quarterly loss. Executives have asked for the state to take a smaller piece of the action as competition intensifies with Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Backers of expanded gaming have also noted that Delaware never received upfront payments from casinos when slots and later table games were authorized, nor were other operators allowed to enter the state.

“Bringing the free market into play creates competition within Delaware rather than having competition pop up across state lines. We also will be able to capture more of the market that exists outside of Delaware,” Williams said. “This will bring additional revenue to the state to pay for education, public safety and infrastructure improvements.” The bill was assigned to the House Gaming & Pari-mutuels Committee.

Click on the link below for a copy of the bill.

HB 135

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