The commission charged with examining the impact of additional casinos in Delaware is moving into a formal bid process for a consultant that will compile data for the panel.

    A panel of state legislators and administration officials charged with investigating whether Delaware could support more casinos agreed Sept. 15 to accept bids for the services of a research consultant firm.

    In doing so the Video and Sports Lottery Study Commission essentially decided to spend upward of $50,000 in state funds to have a report prepared for its consideration, since the formal bidding process the commission chose to initiate is reserved for competitive state contracts worth more than that amount.

    The commission could have gone with a less intensive state procurement process used for contracts valued at less that $50,000, but the members agreed that wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of a detailed report on the gambling market in Delaware.

    Dover Sen. Colin Bonini, one of two Republican legislators on the panel, was the only member who raised a concern about the potential cost.

    “What if we get three proposals and the cheapest is $150,000?” he asked rhetorically.

    Dennis Rochford, a businessman hand-picked to chair the commission by Gov. Jack Markell, said the panel will have to wait and see what the bids look like, but it can’t limit the scope of its study because of possible expense.

    “We have to be satisfied that we’re not sacrificing information that we need,” he said.

    To fulfill the language of the state law passed in May that created the commission, the panel needs to provide the legislature with an informational report regarding the feasibility of new casinos in Delaware, including the effects additional gambling venues would have on state revenues and cash flow at the state’s three existing racinos.

    The law, which also reauthorized sports betting and set the ball rolling on table games, requires the commission to consider the impact a new casino or casinos would have on the job market, nearby communities and the local economy.

    At its first meeting last month the panel agreed it wanted a neutral, unbiased analysis of the state’s gambling market; and that the only way to get it is by hiring an outside consultant.

    At the Sept. 15 meeting commission member Tom Cook, acting director of the state finance department, presented a detailed outline of what the panel expects to see in a consultant’s report.

    It includes a “baseline” assessment of Delaware’s current gambling market, including analysis of how the state’s racinos compete with venues in neighboring states, and projections based on the addition of a new casino with a horseracing track and without one.

    “This is sort of the template or guidelines for the consultant,” Cook told the commission.

    The outline will be the basis for the open bidding process, a process Cook said could have begun Monday, Sept 21.

    The formal process, known as a Request for Proposals, allows bidders two weeks from the time the bid is opened to submit their plans and price quotes.

    After reviewing the initial responses to the RFP the commission will interview the top-rated bidders.

    Cook said if the bids are in by the first week of October, the commission could hope to hire a winner by mid-October; and if the RFP process goes as scheduled, the commission could have the consultant’s report on the table by mid-December.

    As for the cost of the report, most members of the commission were inclined to take a wait-and-see approach.

    Commission member Sen. Nancy Cook, D-Kenton, said there’s not even a dedicated source of funding for the panel’s work.

    Cook, whose expertise in the complexities of the state budget is legendary, indicated that the commission might be able to get some money shifted its way from the governor’s office, the finance department or the state economic development office, but no funding is currently in place.

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