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A bill to legalize intrastate online gambling in Delaware passed through the state Senate Wednesday. Now the only thing standing in the way of House Bill 333 becoming law is Gov. Jack Markell, who still needs to sign it. There should be no hangups there, however, as he is a proponent of the bill and could put his name to paper as early as today.

Legislators felt they needed to do something to bolster Delaware’s gambling industry, as it was seen as falling behind its neighbors. New Jersey obviously has Atlantic City and Pennsylvania has been very aggressive lately in developing its gambling venues. CEO of Dover Downs Hotel and Casino Ed Sutor told DelawareOnline.com that his company is losing slots customers to the new Maryland Live! casino in Hanover, Maryland, situated across Chesapeake Bay near the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. “This will go a long way to help us be more competitive,” he said.

Currently, gambling contributes over $250 million in tax revenue to state coffers each year and about 2,500 of the state’s residents are employed by casinos.

HB 333 would legalize all forms of gambling over the internet, which would make Delaware the first state to open its series of tubes to poker, casino games, lottery, and even sports betting. While Nevada recently awarded its first online gaming licenses, those are just for online poker. Casino games and poker will be found on various licensed websites, which will be controlled by the state Lottery Office. Non-casino venues, such as bars and restaurants, will be able to sell Keno tickets and football parlay cards. While 2013 is the target date for overall online gaming, a couple dozen venues are expected to be ready for football betting before the NFL season starts this fall. Lottery tickets will also be sold online.

Players must be within state borders to play.

The bill’s vote was by no means unanimous. Thumbs-up beat thumbs-down by a score of 14 to 6, with one Senator, F. Gary Simpson, abstaining because of his association with the Harrington Raceway and Casino. Interestingly, there is a chance that the vote will have to be redone as Sen. Robert Venebles has said he meant to vote “no,” but thought they were voting on an amendment that would have given Delaware’s horse racing industry a larger portion of online gambling revenues. His hearing aid was supposedly turned down, resulting in his confusion. He may move to rescind the vote which, if approved, would mean a new vote would have to be taken. Even if one “yes” vote ends up changing to “no,” however, the three-fifths majority needed to pass HB 333 would still be intact, though just barely. If the Governor signs the bill first, the vote cannot be rescinded.

The Delaware Department of Finance has estimated that online gambling will bring in $7.75 million revenue to the state next year. That plus job protection were the main goals of the bill’s lead sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca.

In order to give the three existing brick and mortar casinos in the state a boost, a portion of the revenue from intrastate online gambling will go towards the $3.75 million in licensing fees they pay each year.

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