Speaking at a regional casino conference in Atlantic City, Dover Downs President Ed Sutor said Tuesday that a proposal currently stalled in his state’s legislature would worsen an already saturated market.
“There’s one slot machine for every 19 residents,” he said during a panel discussion at the East Coast Gaming Congress. “It’s just too much. If we get additional competition, at least one of our casinos would have to close down.”
He did not indicate which of Delaware’s three casinos — Dover Downs, Delaware Park or Harrington — might have to close due to new competition.
A bill that would expand gambling in Delaware by allowing two more casinos is stuck in a House committee, but its sponsor has vowed to continue fighting for the legislation, which is supported by the governor.
As written, the bill would allow a panel appointed by the governor to review applications for new casinos in Sussex and New Castle counties and select one for each county. There are three proposals for a casino in Sussex County, and at least four for New Castle County.
Supporters say the bill would boost Delaware’s economy by creating construction and casino jobs. As with the existing casinos, the state also would share in gambling proceeds from the new venues.
House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf has said the southern Delaware beaches draw more than 7 million visitors each year, many of whom might like to gamble.
Sutor said the existing casinos are struggling with high taxes and growing competition. Keeping the market as is would be the only way to preserve its viability, he added.
“Our mantra is ‘No new casinos,'” Sutor said.
Casino analyst Lawrence Klatzkin said adding new casinos would probably hurt the existing ones.
“I don’t know how you do it without really damaging them,” he said. “You open four new, and three close? I don’t know if it makes sense.”
There are now 25 casinos within a 150-mile radius of Atlantic City, with more on the way in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.