In the wake of a federal court decision that stymied Delaware’s plan to offer Vegas-style sports betting, the state’s three casinos are wondering just what to do with the multi-million-dollar sport book facilities they raced to complete by the start of football season.

In the wake of a federal court decision that stymied Delaware’s plan to offer Vegas-style sports betting, the state’s three casinos are wondering just what to do with the multi-million-dollar sport book facilities they raced to complete by the start of football season.


Executives at each of the venues said the ruling handed down by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 24, in which Delaware was restricted from offering single-game bets and wagering on a variety of professional and collegiate sports, was a huge blow, but the show must go on.


Ed Sutor, president of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, said his company spent more than $5 million to renovate a former restaurant space into a top-of-the-line betting parlor with digital displays for odds and scores, walls full of high-definition TVs and a brand new bar.


Dover Downs’ sports book, like similar rooms at Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway and Casino, has all the bells and whistles it needs to run full-service wagering on all professional and college sports.


In a written opinion released Monday, the court firmly established that, in its view, Delaware is allowed to offer parlay bets on NFL games only. Parlay bets require that bettors pick the winners of at least three separate NFL games in a single wager.


Experts say parlays won’t generate anywhere near the amount of money or foot traffic that single-game betting would.


State officials have not said what sort of parlay games they’ll be designing for the state’s three casinos, but it could mean the venues won’t get the best use out of all their new-fangled electronics and other amenities.


But Sutor and his colleagues at the other casinos say they’re going to try to make the best of a bad situation.


“If it’s limited to only pro football, I guess we’d have a five-month season,” Sutor said. “Year-round it’d be used for [horse]race betting and I’m sure it’ll be an outstanding sports bar. We’ll be showing all the games as though it was a Las Vegas-style casino.


“It’ll be the place to be, to hang out with your buddies, it just won’t have all the types of betting that we originally thought.”


Delaware Park’s General Manager Andrew Gentile said his facility probably will morph into a type of uber-sports bar as well.


“We’ve already contracted for the NFL DirecTV package, we’ve already contracted for the MLB package and the college football package, I can’t get that money back,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to redirect our marketing approach and brand it more in that aspect.”


But Gentile said he’s less sure of what they’ll do with the 18 digital display panels and two electronic tickers that were supposed to flash real-time odds and game scores. Those cost almost $500,000.


“We’re actually reaching out to that vendor to find out what else we can utilize the boards for,” he said.


Harrington spent $5 million on its new sports and race book, located underneath the track’s grandstand, money CEO Patti Key said won’t go to waste since the space was designed to be flexible.


“We built it like that so we could use it for something else, especially when sports weren’t that heavy,” she said. “We’re still looking forward to betting on the NFL, whether it’s parlay or not, it’s still somewhat the main activity up there.”


Each of the casinos also has to consider its need for new staff to run the sports books. If they only offer the less-popular parlays, the demand for services in the high-tech betting arenas will be less.


Key said most of the employees tapped to staff the sports book were supposed to be part-time workers who would become full-time. But many of those folks have been told they won’t be getting more hours and plans to hire new staff have been shelved, she said.


Delaware Park also is converting part-timers to full-time and had already hired about 10 new employees, but Gentile said they won’t be bringing in any more.


The bulk of Dover’s 70-person sports book staff is new hires, Sutor said, but there’s no guarantee that the 50 new positions will stay.


“At this point we have no intention of adjusting that, that’s not to say we won’t adjust. If we don’t get business or it’s very little, perhaps those people get reassigned or we allow attrition to take place and don’t backfill,” he said. “We staff according to volume, and if we’re not getting the volume, there won’t be as much staffing.”


Sutor said Dover Downs is going to re-examine its marketing efforts to save money, at least until the state finds out what sports betting will look like.


“We’ve scaled it back until we find out what exactly it is, we’ve never advertised Las Vegas-style, we’ve said sports betting is coming and that’s still the truth,” he said. “To the degree we use other media it will probably be scaled back. There will be plenty of internal signage, mailings to our database, direct mail, emails, telephone blasts.”


All three casinos also hope that the stunting of sports betting will put table games on the fast track.


“It’s no question that the ruling by the federal court will have a negative impact on the casinos, as well as the state, in terms of how much we’re going to get,” Sutor said. “Logic would say if you accelerate the approval process for table games and get them up and running quicker, that would mitigate some if not all of the downside caused by the decision.”


Table games, Sutor added, are where the real money is for the state and the casinos — jobs too, which would number in the hundreds.


“They have two weapons at their disposal, the first one appears to be blunted at the moment, so why not go for the second one, pull that second arrow out of the quiver?” he said.


Legislative leaders have said table games will have to wait until the General Assembly returns to Dover in January, shirking calls for a special session to vote the plan into law.


If a vote on table games does come after the first of the year, it could take as long as six months for the casinos to get tables up and running. Sutor has said that, optimistically, they could do it by April.


But for now, the sports books will have to help lay the groundwork for table games as best they can.


“It’ll still be the place to come for the Super Bowl, the Final Four. We’re going to create an atmosphere because we still want to attract that demographic, because eventually we hope to have table games and that’s the same group, it’s a younger male population,” Sutor said. “Under any condition that race and sports book will be beneficial in attracting the demographic we’re looking for.”


E-mail Dover Post writer Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com


WHAT IT MEANS


Parlay: A single wager that depends on the outcome of two or more contests, also known as an accumulator bet.


Etymology: 1828, French paroli, possibly derived from Italian paro, meaning “equal”


Source: www.sportsbook.com, www.merriam-webster.com