Delaware’s legal sports bets to lift bookmaker

One Nevada gaming company will benefit from Delaware’s move into legalized sports wagering.

Brandywine Bookmaking, which owns Lucky’s race and sports books, will run the operations at three racetrack casinos in Delaware.

Sports betting will be confined to racetracks, which also have slot machines.

The venture is a hometown opportunity for Brandywine President Joe Asher, who grew up in Delaware and worked at several racetracks. Asher also believes it could be a lucrative enterprise for his company, which received tentative approval from Nevada casino regulators last week to open its 12th race and sports book in the state.

Nevada sports books took in almost $2.6 billion in wagers in 2008, collecting revenues of $136 million.

Brandywine will be paid a fee based on revenues. The state and the racetracks will split the profits after costs.

Delaware approved sports betting in May. It is one of four states grandfathered under a 1992 federal law that bans sports wagering. The state has more than 850,000 residents and is a two-hour drive from Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, which collectively offer some 30 million potential customers.

Asher believes gamblers will wager in Delaware for the same reasons that customers flock to Nevada’s sports books — the activity is lawful and regulated with fair odds.

He also believes the locations could be popular with ardent fans of the Northeast’s favorite teams.

“We’re in a prime location near some of the most storied franchises in a densely populated part of the country,” Asher said.

Brandywine has partnered with equipment providers Scientific Games and Las Vegas-based Stadium Technology in outfitting the sports books.

Asher plans to open Sept. 1, pending resolution of a federal lawsuit filed by the four major sports leagues and NCAA, which is challenging the constitutionality of Delaware sports betting. The state is fighting the lawsuit.

***

Gambling expansion in Ohio could alter the gaming landscape in the Midwest.

Moody’s Investors Service told clients that Ohio residents spend nearly $1 billion a year at casinos in neighboring Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia. Lately, new casinos in western Pennsylvania have enticed Ohioans.

All that could soon change. In July, Ohio’s governor signed an executive order that allows video lottery machines at the state’s seven racetracks. Ohio voters will decide this fall whether casinos can be built in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

“Any changes in Ohio’s gaming laws will warp the markets considerably for the gaming facilities currently operating in states that border Ohio,” Moody’s analyst Jacques Ouazana told investors.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. E-mail him at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or call 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.

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