Competition from Pennsylvania and Maryland may make a dent in projected revenue from Delaware's table games.


Executives from Delaware’s three casinos had mixed news to report about the profitability of table games statewide at a quarterly meeting of gambling industry insiders last week.

Table games are off to a slow start, but slots play is up since the tables were introduced at all three venues in June, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino CEO Ed Sutor told the state’s Video Lottery Advisory Council Sept. 14.

Sutor also said foot traffic is up and it’s bolstered revenue from non-gaming sources since more people are stopping by to check out the new games, if not sit and play for an extended period.

“I believe it’s impacted favorably on our slots; not only on slots but elsewhere, like food and beverage,” he said. “I don’t think table games is doing as well as the state expected or we expected.”

The state Department of Finance estimated table games would bring $29 million to the general fund this fiscal year, but in their first few months of operation revenues have lagged somewhat.

Sutor said slots revenues were up 2.4% in July compared to a year ago, a jump he attributed to table games, but August saw a drop of 5%.

September is looking like a down month too, he added.

“The jury is still out on this quarter,” Sutor said. “All things considered, I’m happy our business isn’t down more.”

Things are more urgent at the state’s smallest gambling venue, Harrington Raceway and Casino, said CEO Patti Key.

Even though table games also have driven higher food and drink sales at Harrington, Key said an ongoing shortage of table games dealers has forced her casino to pay loads of overtime to the dealers it does have.

“We may not even be breaking even on tables at the end of the month,” Key said. “It’s something we have to work on internally. There’s not a lot you can cut; it’s labor, we need the dealers.”

Harrington’s dilemma is a symptom of what’s become the biggest problem for all of Delaware’s casinos: competition from neighboring states.

The addition of table games in Pennsylvania casinos this summer meant more demand for dealers in the region, but most importantly it means gamblers have more places to play than ever before.

SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia is scheduled to open by the end of September, which, along with Harrah’s Chester, will constitute the greatest threat to Delaware’s casino market share.

Maryland’s first slots parlors also are opening soon, spearheaded by the Hollywood casino in Perryville, just off Interstate 95, a mere 25 miles from Delaware Park.

Later this year, slots are scheduled to open at Ocean Downs in Berlin, Md., just west of Ocean City. That facility is owned by the same group that owns Delaware Park and stands to do the most damage to Harrington by siphoning off its beach-going clientele.

Delaware Park COO Andrew Gentile said his casino is doing all it can to get a jump on the increasing competition. This month, they’re working to get their new poker tournament room up and running before SugarHouse.

All three casinos also are touting the one thing they have that no one else does: parlay betting on NFL games.

Sutor and Gentile both reported more success with sports betting so far this year compared to the early part of last year’s season, when the parlay system was unveiled.

“We saw good volume the first week,” Gentile said. “It was by far much better than opening week last year.”

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com.