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Delaware is first to OK full-service casino gambling -- online

June 28, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • A roulette table awaits gamblers at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J.
A roulette table awaits gamblers at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J. (Wayne Parry / Associated…)

If you love casino gambling and live in Delaware,  it won’t be long before you’ll no longer have to make your way to one of the state’s three casinos. By 2013, due to a bill signed into law Thursday, people in Delaware will be free to play slots and roulette on their computers -- and probably on their smartphones too.

The tongue-twisting Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act, signed by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, makes Delaware the first state to allow full-service online casino gambling, the News Journal of Wilmington, Del., reports. The vote was close, with strong opposition from lawmakers who fear the law will only add to the social costs associated with gambling.

But the bill’s backers say online casino gambling is necessary to help tiny Delaware compete with casinos in its larger neighbors, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  They said provisions in the law for geo-location software will ensure that only people in Delaware are allowed to participate. Federal law limits online gambling to people within a state’s borders.

Casino games will be available to Delaware residents through the websites of the state’s casinos, with betting controlled and monitored by the state Lottery Office.  The state hopes to provide online casino gambling by 2013, with access also available via computer tablets and smartphones. (Office workers should probably check with the boss before laying casino bets on the office computer.)

Passage of the bill follows a Justice Department legal interpretation last year allowing states to offer online gambling within their borders.

Markell said the law will protect and promote jobs in the state’s casino industry.

"We’re talking about a couple thousand jobs,’’ the governor said. "The competitive landscape for this industry has changed dramatically.’’

Delaware’s casinos employ about 2,500 people and gambling generates about $250 million a year in state taxes, according to the News Journal. The state’s Department of Finance estimates that the new law will generate an additional $7.75 million for Delaware in fiscal 2013.

Delaware also plans to sell lottery tickets on a state-run website. Other states already sell lottery tickets online, and Nevada is considering online poker games.

"We can help protect the jobs and this revenue source for our state,’’ said Delaware Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca, who sponsored the bill in the state Senate.

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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