In Time for the NBA Finals, Delaware Wins Race to Offer Sports Betting

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the state's three casinos will begin accepting single-game bets.


Just three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, Delaware will be the first place outside of Nevada to allow bettors to wager on the outcome of individual games.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the state's three casinos will begin accepting single-game bets on football, baseball, auto racing, basketball, hockey, soccer, and golf. With Game 3 of the National Basketball Association's championship series set for Wednesday night, that figures to be the first hot ticket.

For now, gamblers will have to make in-person bets at the casinos. According to the Associated Press, Delaware Lottery Director Vernon Kirk said that a mobile application that will allow people in Delaware to partake in sports betting remotely is in the works.

Delaware won the race to be the first state to offer sports betting even though it was New Jersey that brought a challenge against the Bradley Act, the 1992 federal law that prohibited states from legalizing those wagers. The Supreme Court ruled last month that part of the Bradley Act violated the 10th Amendment, freeing states to make their own rules regarding sports betting.

Since 2009, Delaware has offered parlay wagers—where a bettor must correctly predict the outcome of multiple games in order to win—on professional football matches through the Delaware Lottery, which provided the necessary regulatory and technological infrastructure for the speedy expansion of legal gambling in Delaware. In anticipation of the state's legalization efforts, the state lottery published a betting guide that covers everything from procedures to definitions of relevant terms.

The arrangement used to divvy up the revenue from the parlay wagers will be the same one used for the new betting system. Once the winners have been paid, Scientific Gaming, which is the contractor that runs the Delaware Lottery, will receive a 15.66 percent cut of what is left. From the remainder, 50 percent goes to the state, 40 percent to the casino, and 10 percent goes to the coffers of the horse-racing industry. During fiscal year 2018, Delaware raked in about $9 million.

It is uncertain, however, if opening up more sports betting options will yield a significant boost to state revenue.

"You need a lot more gaming to generate the same amount of revenue," said state Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger, according to the AP. This is largely because parlay wagers have a much higher net take than the single-game wages that will now be permitted—around 25 percent compared to close to 5–6 percent.

Delaware is not the only state with legislators itching for sports wagers. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Mississippi, and West Virginia have all recently passed bills that would permit expanded sports gambling. In the meantime, we can be sure that state legislators will have their eyes on Delaware.