Delaware Addicted to Gambling Revenues

Filed in Delaware by on February 11, 2014

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has put together a set of proposals to help fix Delaware’s aging infrastructure that seem to make a lot of sense.

Politicians on both sides seem to agree on them. The problem is they can’t agree on how to pay for them.   Markell is trying to sell the unpopular approach of borrowing and a gas tax to pay for it.

One thing that hasn’t helped his budget is the decline of gaming revenue the state draws from its 3 casinos. Last year’s revenue was about $435 million, the smallest in 13 years. Worse, it’s down nearly 20% from 2012’s total with Dover Downs barely eeking out a $13,000 profit (and that’s after being bailed out with money to modernize).   In 2012 that number was $4.8 million. Ouch!

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About the Author ()

Rob Tornoe is a local cartoonist and columnist, and can be seen in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Press of Atlantic City, The News Journal, and the Dover Post chain of newspapers. He's also a contributor to Media Matters and WHYY. Web site: RobTornoe.com Twitter: @RobTornoe

Comments (21)

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  1. bamboozer says:

    Having spent many nights playing music in casinos in a half dozen states I knew the golden goose would stop dispensing revenue eggs at some point. And sure enough it has happened and not just here, like usual a collection of hallucinating politicians claim more casinos equal more money. HA! At some point I expect Delaware’s politicians to flirt with legalizing pot, it’s the next big revenue generator and they all know it.

  2. puck says:

    How would you generate revenue from pot? Taxes, I know… but why would anybody buy taxed pot when there is already a huge infrastructure for black market untaxed pot? Especially if the pot tax is, um, high.

  3. jason330 says:

    Our Fustian bargain isn’t working out? Shocking. Time to call in Daniel Webster.

  4. mediawatch says:

    Here’s the bottom-line question: What are our legislators more likely to do by midnight on June 30 — improve our roads or bail out the casinos?

    If I were a betting man, you know where I’d put my money.

  5. Frank says:

    Maybe it’s my conservative (in the best sense) Southern Baptist upbringing, but I have always been suspicious of gambling as a source of public revenue.

    It has always seemed to me a misdirection play, a strategy for suckering the public into paying increased taxes to the house, because the house always wins, without actually admitting that taxes have been increased.

    We have a generation of politicians who will do anything they can to avoid the actual responsibilities of governance.

    A pox I say, nay, a French pox upon them all.

  6. Recovering Idealist says:

    “why would anybody buy taxed pot when there is already a huge infrastructure for black market untaxed pot? Especially if the pot tax is, um, high.”

    I don’t know if I can tell you why individuals choose to pay more, but Colorado is already raising a lot of revenue (potentially $100 million in 2014) from marijuana taxes in spite of the fact that legal weed is more expensive than illegal weed.

  7. Geezer says:

    Keep in mind that the total number of dollars gambled isn’t dropping. It’s no longer a license to print money because there are now more fingers in the pie.

  8. anon says:

    Delaware did a really stupid thing when they allowed sports betting, Keno, etc. out of the 3 casinos and into bars and restaurants.

    Now we’re left with gambling (gaming, whatever you want to call it) in our neighborhoods and 3 casinos continually looking for tax payer funded bail outs.

    I like Jack, but that was a monumentally stupid move on his part. All of it should have been confined to the 3 casinos.

  9. Geezer says:

    “All of it should have been confined to the 3 casinos.”

    Quite the contrary. The bailout was a bad idea, but restricting trade is not the answer.

  10. anon says:

    I disagree. If it was confined to the 3 casinos they (the casinos) would be generating more revenue and therefore require less of my money to bail them out and we wouldn’t have gambling right in our neighborhoods.

  11. Geezer says:

    If you have a convenience store, you already have gambling in your neighborhood.

    And giving money to the casinos does not automatically follow from their inability to run their businesses well. You are confusing cause and effect.

  12. Camptown Lady says:

    How would you generate revenue from pot? Taxes, I know… but why would anybody buy taxed pot when there is already a huge infrastructure for black market untaxed pot? Especially if the pot tax is, um, high.

    The tax would be lower than the risk premium that dealers naturally add to the cost of the product. I would also assume that penalties for dealing “black market” pot would also be
    increased- don’t mess with the state’s money. Your friendly neighborhood dealer will be out of business, except on the periphery, like moonshiners and those dealing in untaxed cigarettes- unless they go legal, and open a pot shop (assuming they are not state-run stores).

  13. Old Sussex County Native says:

    “I just feel all warm and fuzzy inside thinking about the kid working on my brakes today having spent last night toking away on pot” — a quote I heard from a guy being interviewed in Colorado. Do we need that to happen here???? I’m not convinced…

  14. Another Mike says:

    Is the guy who “toked away” on legal pot any less high than the guy who toked away illegally? Or any different from the guy who is still half in the bag after closing his local tavern?

    The state would also save money by not prosecuting, housing, feeding and guarding all those prisoners whose crime was getting caught with marijuana. There are many benefits and certainly some risks, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And think of the increased potato chip sales.

  15. Recovering Idealist says:

    Colorado according to Old Sussex County Native:

  16. Geezer says:

    “I just feel all warm and fuzzy inside thinking about the kid working on my brakes today having spent last night toking away on pot”

    So far, only 10% of Coloradans have purchased legal pot, and apparently that’s the full market. As Another Mike pointed out, the kid working on your brakes probably already did that.

    If you’ve never smoked any pot, you should probably save yourself the embarrassment of having Old Sussex Native’s opinion about it.

  17. Geezer says:

    “I would also assume that penalties for dealing “black market” pot would also be
    increased- don’t mess with the state’s money.”

    Assuming apparently is what you do best.

  18. anon says:

    I think legalizing pot and taxing it is a much better solution to the state’s financial woes than depending on gambling.

  19. Brock Landers says:

    While we are at it, let’s legalize prostitution so that the jack shacks can be taxed and investigated for human trafficking.

  20. Geezer says:

    “I think legalizing pot and taxing it is a much better solution to the state’s financial woes than depending on gambling.”

    You won’t reap $200 million on pot taxes in a state this size. That’s what gambling brings in. And you’re not going to get rid of gambling now that it’s here. Other than that, great idea.

  21. LeBay says:

    @Old Sussex County Native-

    The “kid” who worked on your brakes in the ’80s and ’90s probably smoked pot.

    Most repair shops use pre-employment drug testing and random post-employment drug testing these days.

    Relax, pop-pop.