Mobile sports betting can benefit Delaware, but let’s get it right


Reps. Franklin Cooke, D-New Castle; Bill Bush, D-Dover; and Michael Smith, R-Pike Creek, serve on the House of Representatives’ Internet Sports Lottery Legislative Working Group.

Delaware witnessed its first legal single-game sports bet on June 5, 2018, at what is now Bally’s Dover. The $10 bet on the Phillies to beat the Chicago Cubs wasn’t just the first legal single-game bet in the First State; it was also the first legal sports bet in the country outside of Nevada, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a federal law that prohibited wagering on amateur and professional sports.

Five years later, Delaware languishes in the minority, as one of fewer than 25 states that have yet to legalize mobile sports betting. Additionally, out of the seven states that allow online casino gaming, or “iGaming,” we are the only state that does not permit mobile sports betting.

The demand for mobile sports betting isn’t just speculation. Delawareans are traveling in droves to all our neighboring states, stopping in parking lots of restaurants or shopping centers, to place mobile sports bets from their phone, depriving Delaware of the ability to collect revenue from this activity. According to the leading North American licensed geofencing company GeoComply, 112,200 unique player accounts in Delaware unsuccessfully made more than 4 million attempts to place a mobile sports wager on a licensed app in a neighboring state during this past NFL season. Equally noteworthy, more than 4 out of 5 tourists visiting Delaware are traveling from states where mobile sports betting is legal. These visitors are not able to place a bet while they’re here, another missed opportunity for Delaware.

Maryland recently joined Delaware’s two other neighboring states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, when it launched legal mobile sports betting at the end of November 2022. The results are striking. From November 2022 through January 2023, almost $1.1 billion was wagered online in Maryland among the seven licensed and regulated mobile sports betting operators. Meanwhile, sports wagers at Delaware’s three racinos have gone down 44% year-over-year during that same period. This isn’t a coincidence.

While it is encouraging that the new lottery director supports legalizing mobile sports betting, the process thus far can be best described as “putting the cart before the horse.” To the surprise of many, including lawmakers, the lottery issued a solicitation for proposals in January for iGaming, with the option to include mobile sports betting under a single vendor.

We believe the lottery’s request is premature.

The Delaware General Assembly has not introduced, let alone passed, legislation to legalize mobile sports betting. Moreover, data from other states shows that single-vendor mobile sports betting models can produce disappointing results. It’s also telling that the responses to the solicitation did not come from any of the major operators in the surrounding states or across the country. As legislators, we weren’t surprised because the solicitation mirrors the previous one for iGaming, which has yielded disappointing revenue figures to date. We have the opportunity to change this approach, which is why we joined with other legislators, including members of leadership in both chambers of the General Assembly, in sending a letter to the lottery director, urging them not to implement mobile sports betting before the General Assembly has deliberated and adopted enabling legislation.

Earlier this year, the Delaware House of Representatives passed a resolution that established a working group to study mobile sports betting. The primary focus of this group is to analyze frameworks from surrounding states and come up with a model that makes sense for Delaware. If done right, mobile sports betting in Delaware can help stamp out the flourishing illegal market that puts participating residents at risk on a daily basis. We can also ensure Delawareans receive critical consumer protections and resources for responsible gaming that are unavailable in the illegal market.

Finally, we can capture the revenue that is flowing out of our state and gain new revenue from tourists betting on apps already legal in their home state.

Legalizing and regulating mobile sports betting can be a winning bet for Delaware! We are ready to join the majority of other states that have legalized it. But before the lottery moves forward, let’s make sure we get this right.

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