Delaware is known as the fastest-acting state in regards to legal gambling: It was the first state to legalise sports betting after the famous Supreme Court PASPA ruling. This small but passionate state has long been trying to legalise all forms of gambling, and we can say that it is mostly successful. The state also has a partnership with Nevada: At present, gamblers in Delaware can also play at Nevada operators, and the exact opposite is possible for Nevada gamblers too. So, how did all this start? What’s the history of gambling in Delaware? Let’s take a look at the answer to these questions.
The Colonial Times: Horse Betting
Delaware is one of the first colonies to join the Federal Union and has been considered a state since 1787. However, gambling was also available long before that: Historical records show that the first horse race track in the province was built in 1760. Horse racing and horse betting play an important role in the history of the state. Even though sports betting and horse gambling were illegal until the 1930s, “private” bookmakers were always available: Residents of Delaware have been playing horse gambling and sports betting for almost 250 years.
We can say that these illegal sports betting “services” always supported the state economically. At the time of the Great Depression, while the other states nearly went bankrupt, Delaware was almost never affected. The reason for this was the city authorities who allowed sports betting despite their illegality – Delaware was almost always the leading state of America in terms of horse gambling. In 1933, horse betting became legal with some restrictions, and the famous DuPont family built the largest racing track in America in 1937. This runway, called Delaware Park, continues its activities today.
In other words, horse betting has been considered legal for nearly 80 years and is a significant source of income for the province. That is why Delaware is trying to legalize other forms of gambling: As long as it is controlled, they know how advantageous this industry is and how it can provide very high tax revenues. Today, Delaware is considered one of the rare states where underground illegal sports betting is hardly ever present. This is because players don’t need it: Those who want to play sports betting or casino games can easily find a lot of legal options for it.
The First Attempt At Legalizing Sports Betting
In 1996, video lottery machines were legalized and this created an opportunity to build land-based casinos. The law described the video lottery machines in a very liberal way and that definition could be used for slot machines too. With this law, land-based casinos, in addition to horse gambling, began offering slot games as well. Some Delaware residents were unhappy with this practice, but tax revenue from legal gambling had increased significantly. In 2009, city officials decided to legalize an already existing situation: With a bill, all table and card games and all types of sports betting were legalized. So, Delaware actually legalized sports gambling 10 years ago.
However, in the same year, a federal law prohibited sports betting across the country. Delaware has objected to this and has managed to get rid of the nation-wide ban to some extent. NHL sports betting continued to be legal in Delaware, despite the federal law. There were only four states in America with this privilege, and Delaware was one of them. Unfortunately, NBA sports betting, MLB sports betting and college sports betting were not covered by this exception. The Delaware residents have started to use offshore gambling sites for this type of bets – city officials have chosen not to restrict this in any way. This situation continues to a great extent nowadays, since legitimacy and availability do not always mean the same. But, let’s continue with the history lesson – we will explain the meaning of this below.
Until the Supreme Court sports betting decision, the current situation continued without any change. Fantasy sports betting and casino games were legal. Live horse betting was already an important part of the state’s history and there was no debate about its legality. However, online sports betting was considered illegal except for the NFL. This has changed since the Supreme Court PASPA decision, and as mentioned above, Delaware became the first state that legalized sports betting after this ruling.