Finance Secretary Tom Cook and members of the governor’s staff revealed a plan Tuesday to increase gambling options in Delaware and reduce the casinos’ annual licensing fees.
THE ISSUE Citing increasing competition and declining revenues, Delaware’s three casinos have been pushing for relief from the state in the form of tax reductions and the elimination of its annual licensing fees.
With the opening of the Arundel Mills Casino in Maryland next month, casino heads were looking for quick action from the state in order to prevent further losses and the possibility of job cuts.
In response, Finance Secretary Tom Cook and members of the governor’s staff revealed a plan Tuesday to increase gambling options in Delaware and reduce the casinos’ annual licensing fees.
WHAT WE’VE REPORTED As part of the annual report by the Video Lottery Advisory Council released in October, Delaware’s three casino executives asked the state to eliminate a $6.75 million annual table games licensing fee and a $4 million annual video lottery fee. They also requested bring down the state’s table game tax rate from 34 percent to 14 percent, which is the current rate in Pennsylvania.
“All we’re asking is for [the state] to consider making it a more level playing field to compete,” said Ed Sutor, CEO of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and chairman of the Video Lottery Advisory Counsel.
Brian Selander, a spokesman for Gov. Jack Markell, said legislation could be introduced as early as next week that would expand the Keno lottery game to 100 new venues by the end of the year and would also expand NFL betting to at least 20 new outlets.
The measure also calls for casino games, such as blackjack, poker and slots to be available online and through mobile applications, and would allow the state to sell lottery tickets through the lottery’s web site.
In all, state officials project the expansion to add $7.75 million in revenue each year. The casinos, would therefore see a reduction in its licensing fees by the same amount. This includes the elimination of the $4 million slots fee and a $3.75 million reduction in its table games fee.
“The solution had to be revenue-neutral,” Selander said. “We had to make sure it wouldn’t take away from the teachers, police and medical responders.”
Casinos, will be required, however, to put those savings toward capital expenditures, marketing and debt reduction, Selander said.
Sutor said the casinos are appreciative of the efforts that are being taken by the state and are willing to cooperate with their stipulations.
“They don’t want us to take the money and put in our pockets,” he said. “We’re OK with that. Hopefully the legislators understand this is for the benefit of the entire state. If we do better, than the state does better.”