Casino relief package clears Delaware State Senate

The Senate voted 17-3 Thursday to pass Senate Bill 144, reducing the state's share of gross table game revenues from 29.4-percent to 15.5 percent.

Critics have called it a bailout, but supporters of legislation to reduce Delaware's share of gaming revenues from the state's three racinos say it's vital to helping the industry thrive and keep jobs.

The Senate voted 17-3 Thursday to pass Senate Bill 144. It would reduce the state's share of gross table game revenues from 29.4-percent to 15.5 percent. The state's share of gross slot machine revenues would also be reduced, and a prohibition against video lottery agents to operate on Christmas and Easter would be lifted.

"For years, my highest legislative priority has been restructuring the financial relationship between Delaware and our casino industry. That relationship has been out of whack for years, to the peril of more than 4,000 jobs," State Senator Brian Bushweller, D- 17th, said. He added that state government has "treated the industry like a cash cow for decades, and that cow has been milked nearly dry."

Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway have faced growing competition from neighboring states since casino gaming was first authorized more than two decades ago. As their costs of doing business have risen, industry leaders said it has been a challenge to stay in the black.

"Although we had requested greater relief, we appreciate the spirit of everyone working together to reach this compromise," Dover Downs President and CEO Denis McGlynn said. "We especially appreciate the reinvigoration of our partnership with the state, and look forward to passage in the House and Senate and signature by Governor Carney."

Senator Robert Marshall, D- 3rd, voted against the measure.

"I hear nothing about the smaller business and any support, any programs, we can provide that company in order to survive the downturns," Marshall said.

An increase of 0.6-percent in purses for horsemen would also be phased in over two years. The table license fee due in June 2019 would be suspended. 

The measure goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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