History of Gambling & Casinos in Delaware

Delaware and Nevada pass intra state online gambling

Delaware and the state of Nevada have agreed to allow online poker players to play on the newly legalized online poker websites established in both states. This is a new development that will increase the number of online poker players on the newly regulated poker sites. Previously only a Nevada resident could play on a Nevada site and a Delaware resident on a Delaware poker site. Opening up the boundries between both states allows for more exciting poker play which relies on a constant number of players on the sites simultaneously.

History of horse racing and casinos in Delaware

Delaware is the second smallest state of the US bordered by Maryland to the West/South, Pennsylvania to the North and New Jersey to the East. As one of the Middle Atlantic States, it has the distinction of being the first of the thirteen original colonies to enter into the Federal Union. On December 12, 1787, Delaware became the first state.

Its introduction to gambling was initially gradual and subdued. Although Delaware is far from a major gambling hub- and that is unlikely to change – the state’s law makers must acknowledge the fact that even limited gambling has risen to become Delaware’s fourth largest source of revenue. Consequently, gambling will remain and grow with the growth fueled by ever-encroaching gambling facilities in the nearby states.

Currently, Delaware hosts three racing venues:

  • Delaware Park Racetrack and Slots venue features live thoroughbred racing and slot machines.
  • Harrington Raceway features harness racing and a 45,000 square foot casino.
  • Dover Downs entertainment features live harness racing, NASCAR racing and slots.

    Horse racing in the State of Delaware dates back as far as the colonial period when the first racing facility was built in the Town of Newark in 1760. Although betting was illegal, private wagering was common. The sport flourished in Delaware until the Depression era of World War I.

    Supporters of horse racing struggled to resurrect the sport but were blocked by changing attitudes and opposition from Delaware conservatives. The Great Depression of the 1930’s accelerated the state’s need for money and opposition toward almost any revenue-producing endeavor rapidly cooled. Former opponents maintained a reluctant silence when proponents pushed through legislation creating the Delaware Racing Commission in 1933.

    In 1935, license was granted for selling pools through pari-mutual machines and wagering was allowed “within the enclosure of any horse race meet licensed and conducted under this Act.”

    In 1936, five area business men, led by William duPont, Jr., formed the Delaware Steeplechase and Race Association and purchased a large amount of land on which would be housed facilities dedicated to the breeding and promotion of thoroughbred race horses. That same year, the Association principles met with the Delaware Racing commission and proposed the design and building of a race track.

    These high-powered business men convinced the Racing Commission that the race track would benefit the state. To this end, the Delaware House and Senate passed a bill allowing thirty horse racing days and a twenty cent tax on any free tickets issued for any race held in the state.

    The new racing facility was named Delaware Park and was designed by William duPont, Jr., who had previously designed twenty-three race courses throughout the country.

    The track itself was a one-mile dirt oval overlooked by a grandstand seating 7,500. An innovative tiered clubhouse and turf club occupied the uppermost level. Stables at the backstretch were equipped to house up to 1,226 horses.

    The racetrack held its grand opening on June 26, 1937, with a thirty day meet. “Legal Light” won the first race and has the distinction of being the first horse to win a race at Delaware Park. The race course’s beautifully designed track and inviting picnic groves provided a welcome respite for Delaware residents and tourists alike – and the track flourished.

    Closing briefly in 1943 during World War II, the track re-opened the following year and continued to be profitable, taking in over $23,000,000 from 288,000 fans.

    In 1958, a $2.8 million expansion was completed which doubled the grandstand seating and included a new club house, a winner’s circle and television cameras.

  • Dover Downs is a unique dual purpose racing venue designed to accommodate both horse and auto racing. The race track opened in 1969 and the first speedway event was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series Race won by Richard Petty.
  • In 1971, Dover Downs announced the cancellation of all other events and would feature only two 500 mile NASCAR Winston Cup Series Races annually. The schedule prevailed with few exceptions until 1977 when other racing events were again introduced.
  • In 1995, Dover Downs became the first NASCAR super speedway to pave the raceway with concrete to make the races faster, cleaner and more competitive.
  • Harrington Raceway is America’s oldest continuously operating harness racing facility and has featured harness racing for over 58 years.
  • In 1996 Harrington, along with Delaware’s two other racing venues, installed its first video lottery machines, a benefit of the newly-passed regulations by the Delaware Legislature.

  • Bingo

    Bingo is a hugely popular recreational and gambling pastime in the United States as well as a popular means of fund raising for various charitable causes and Delaware is no exception to the lure of this game.

    Bingo halls or parlors – so called because the facilities are used only for playing of bingo – can be easily found almost everywhere in Delaware. The game was illegal in the state until 1957 when a Constitutional Amendment was passed allowing Bingo games to be conducted under strict guidelines. The only organizations allowed to conduct these games were volunteer fire companies, veteran’s organizations and/or religious, charitable or fraternal organizations. All profits derived from these games were to be used solely for the promotion or achievement of such organizations.

    Simultaneously with the passage of the Amendment, a Delaware Bingo Control Commission was created to govern, adapt, amend and repeal rules and regulations governing the issuance of licenses to conduct bingo games and lease the equipment necessary to play. Twelve years later in 1969, the Bingo Central Commission was ceded to the Division of Business and Occupational Regulation.

    Over the years bingo has also migrated online and online bingo has become quite a sensation with chat rooms and it's social aspects.

    In 1981, The Delaware Gaming Control Board was created to protect the public by regulating sports, amusements and any and all activities involving gambling. TheControl Board assumed the powers, duties and responsibilities of the former Bingo Control Commission and the Division’s name was changed in 1986 to the Division of Business and Professional Regulation.

    Delaware Lottery

    Delaware’s historic link with gambling reaches back to Colonial Days when the English Crown permitted the use of lotteries. Eventually, under suspicion that England was no getting its expected share or revenues, the lotteries were banned.

    After the American Revolution, the newly-independent thirteen colonies established their own lotteries to raise revenues. However, by the 1840’s, lotteries were once again banned in all states – with the exceptions of Missouri, Kentucky and Delaware. Since its inception in 1992, the hugely popular Powerball is the #1 lottery in the United States. Its members include Delaware, 27 other states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. Click here for Delaware Lottery Results

    Gambling always was and always will be an important part of history and a prevailing form of entertainment for rich and poor alike.


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