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House speaker opposes casino relief approved by state Senate

Delaware Public Media

The state Senate approved relief for Delaware’s three casinos Wednesday. But House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf  (D-Rehoboth) says he wasn’t consulted and doesn’t support it.

Schwartzkopf said he only learned about the casino legislation from Wednesday morning's media reports. That’s despite Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger working for six weeks to draft a compromise. It also suspends the table gaming license fee and cuts the state’s share of table game revenue by about 14 percent.

Geisenberger said it will cost the state about $15 million the first year and $20 million a year after that.

Schwartzkopf said that money should go to taxpayers, adding lawmakers haven’t even voted on restoring the grant-in-aid money cut last year.

“At what point do you stop this nonsense about guaranteeing $18 million profit when we have state agencies that need money, we have people that need services and we have cut the budget every damn year since 2009.”

Schwartzkopf also said he opposes any cut to the state’s share of the slot revenue.

Geisenberger said the compromise balances protecting the state’s revenue stream with the casinos’ need to make a profit.

“It also very importantly requires the casinos to take about almost half of the amount that’s in this concession - has to be reinvested in additional capital expenditures and additional marketing, wages and benefits.”

Geisenberger said he negotiated the compromise at the request of Senate Finance Committee chair Harris McDowell and while the Carney administration supports the measure, it’s not their bill.

Dover Downs Casino reported a million dollar loss last year and nearly $275,000 so far this year. CEO Denis McGlynn said the legislation doesn’t give the casino all the money it needs, but provides some of the funds necessary for new facilities and deferred maintenance.  He said he's optimistic the bill will pass the House.

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