Would building new casinos feed the state’s coffers, or is it too risky a gambit?
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Is it Worth It?
Butkiewicz sees problems with all projections that show a windfall of gaming revenues for the state. He and a colleague recently produced a study that contradicted a claim that sports betting would bring in $71 million in revenues. His study showed the revenue gain would amount to little more than $3 million.
“The state is expecting too much from gaming,” Butkiewicz says. “The projections are way out of line with reality.”
Fink says the state is relying too much on gambling. “Remember the banks?” he asks. “Well, here we go again.”
Fasy believes there is an even more fundamental reality at work. “The whole gaming industry was put together back in 1994 to save the horse racing industry,” he says. “And it worked.” The racing industry supports the local agriculture necessary to breed and feed horses, he says. If additional casino-only sites siphon revenue from the racinos, that industry is put at risk.
Not so, says Schwartzkopf. “The state’s racing association receives revenues from all gaming operations and redistributes them to the various tracks. As long as gaming revenues rise, as they will with additional venues, revenues to support the horse racing will continue to grow.” Schwartzkopf points to the proposed Del Pointe project, which includes a mile-long track.
Regardless of the results of the legislative battle to preserve current venues or increase them, the struggle for wringing ever more revenue from the gaming industry is likely to continue. Gaming is the fourth-largest source of revenue for the state, behind personal income tax, corporation revenue and abandoned property.
“Governments like to go after low-hanging fruit, looking for additional revenues,” says Sutor. “That low-hanging fruit is us.”
With projections that don’t seem to add up, Butkiewicz sees the state behaving like a compulsive gambler striving for greater riches with one more bet.
“Delaware has a gambling problem,” he says.