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Casino legislation faces uncertain future in Delaware House

Delaware Public Media

State Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) is hoping his legislation giving casinos tax relief will pass the Delaware House this year.

But House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) is skeptical of bill’s merits.

Schwartzkopf argues the U.S. Supreme Court could announce a decision on allowing sports betting next month. That could give Delaware casinos more revenue without a hit to the state.

Bushweller said the issue is not expanding betting, but the level of revenue sharing. He says the bill is the result of a compromise between the governor’s office and the casino and horse racing industries.

“It was a governor’s negotiation," he said. "And they made a fundamental decision at one point to not just kick the can down. They decided that in that negotiation that they thought they should try to try to solve the problem.”

Bushweller’s bill slightly reduces the state’s share of slot revenues. It also slashes the state’s take of table game earnings by about 14 percent and suspends the table gaming license fee.

Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger said the legislation will cost the state $15 million in the next fiscal year. Schwartzkopf said he’s opposed to the level of cuts in the legislation for casinos when other areas of the budget need more funding.

“We just had teachers in here asking for more money for their classrooms and things like that," he said. "(State Rep.) Larry Mitchell (D-Elsmere) just stood up on the floor and talked about how low the salaries are for probation and parole. The more money we give to the casinos takes away from the money we can do to try to fix some of the other problems we have in our state.”

Schwartzkopf said he wasn’t fully aware of Bushweller’s legislation until it easily passed the Senate last month.

Gov. John Carney (D) said while he supports the legislation, he also wants to first see the final economic revenue numbers due out later this month.

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