Delaware Race and Sports Wagering
The Delaware Racing Commission was formed in 1933, and in 1935 Delaware granted a license for selling pools through pari-mutuel machines and wagering was allowed "within the enclosure of any licensed horse race meet."
In 1936, five local businessmen, headed by William duPont, Jr., formed the Delaware Steeplechase and Race Association (DSRA), dedicated to the breeding and promotion of thoroughbred race horses. The DSRA and the Racing Commission advocated legislators for legalized racing, resulting in the Delaware House and Senate passing a bill allowing 30 horse racing days and a 26 cent tax "on any free tickets issued for any race held in the state." Live horse racing had its start at Delaware Park, which first opened on 26 June 1937.
Delaware currently houses three racing sites: Delaware Park, which features live thoroughbred racing and slot machines; Harrington Raceway, which features harness racing and a 45,000-square-foot casino; and Dover Downs, which features live harness racing, NASCAR racing and slots.
Harrington Raceway is America's oldest continuously operating harness racing facility and has run a race meet every year since 1946.
Dover Downs, designed to accommodate horse and auto racing, opened in 1969. In 1971, they canceled all other race events except two annual 500-mile NASCAR Winston Cup Races. The schedule stood until 1977, when other racing events were reintroduced.
Gaming legislation in Delaware in 1996 allowed the state's three racetracks to install video lottery machines.
In March 2009, Gov. Jack Markell introduced a proposal that could make sports betting legal in the state. The proposal called for a sports lottery that would only allow parlay bets, in which the player needed two correct bets in order to win. In May 2009, the House passed the bill, which would legalize sports betting as well as allow table games in casinos. The bill called for state officials and the casino industry to submit an initial proposal on table games within 75 days of enactment of the sports betting legislation. In May 2009, the bill passed through the Senate and was signed into law by the governor. Later that same year, the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and NCAA filed a lawsuit against Delaware, claiming their sportsbooks violated federal law. In August 2009, a federal appeals court ruled that Delaware's plan to offer sports betting violated the federal ban on sports wagering. The Third Circuit Court ruled on Delaware's appeal, saying that the state could only offer parlay betting on NFL games because parlay bets were grandfathered into the federal law. In September 2009, casinos began accepting parlay bets.
Delaware was able to pass sportsbook legislation because the state is exempt from the 1992 federal ban and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), since it had sports betting laws before the ban took effect. Delaware is one of only four states, along with Nevada, Oregon and Montana, grandfathered in.
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