Gambling in the US

The legislature in Delaware has just approved a new law expanding the gambling opportunities in that state. It was almost immediately signed into law by the Democratic Governor who is looking at a major hole in the state budgets and needs additional revenue to help fill it. The new law is intended to allow table games, i.e. blackjack, craps and the “King of Casino Games”, to be played at the casinos sited on the state’s three horse racetracks.

As soon as the revenue splits are agreed with the casino operators – the legislature has allowed 75 days for the consultation – the final approval will be given by the legislature. The games should be in play at the racetracks early 2010. The law also helps prop up the horse racing industry which has been feeling the pinch in the current recession. The move is controversial in Maryland because their attempts to collect revenue through exploiting betting on slots will be marginalized. But tax payers in Delaware are giving their full approval. They accept this source of state revenue even though it is, in effect, a tax on gambling which, research shows, tends to have a prejudicial effect on lower income families.

As a state, this is elevating Delaware to one of the leaders in the gaming industry. As it stands, the state is one of the four, i.e. Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon, exempted from federal laws prohibiting sports betting. At a federal level, Barney Frank recently introduced a new Bill which would keep sports betting illegal online in all but the four exempted states. This means Americans can only legally bet on professional sport in one of the four states or by getting on a cruise ship that sails out into international waters off the US coast. Quite why something should be lawful in four states and a few miles offshore, but not at home when someone switches on their computer, is a mystery no-one has been willing to explain. The law is as the law is. Interestingly, New Jersey is challenging the state exemptions on the ground it is unconstitutional to allow sportsbooks in some states and not all states. If this challenge is successful, federal law will change to open the US to betting or force all gamblers out to sea or back into underground betting which, more often than not, is run by organized crime. By comparison, Australia permits all betting where there is an element of skill, and more strictly regulates games which are purely based on luck. The Australians think it takes skill to handicap football games.

So, as it stand, Delaware is set to create gambling honeypots where people can come to the racetrack to bet on the horses, use the sportsbooks and play roulette, craps or blackjack. There are no residence requirements. As with Las Vegas, people can come from anywhere in the US. This despite the mounting evidence that gambling is highly addictive and can seriously damage the health (and wealth) of the families it touches. But, as it stands, Delaware is pushing ahead enthusiastically to enhance its facilities with online roulette and draw all gamblers.

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