It's good to be heartless when wagering on games.
Sports betting has been legal in Delaware since June and fans have already placed wagers on baseball, NASCAR and other sports -- including the NFL preseason games.
Sept. 6 will be the first time gamblers can wager on a regular-season NFL game.
Samuel Thorpe, of Dover, said he’s thinking about gambling on Super Bowl reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles beating the Atlanta Falcons on opening night.
Thorpe, a diehard Eagles fan, said it’s tricky deciding which games to wager on for week one.
“The first week I just want to see how the teams are doing, because every year is different,” he said. “I will bet the first week, but I might not bet heavy.”
Heartless is good
Washington Redskins fan Dynell Topping, of Millsboro, said his strategy for the first week will be to bet based on how teams did last season, and on what his gut tells him.
Topping said he’s thinking about betting on the Eagles versus the Falcons, favoring Philly.
It’s usually a sin for a Redskins fan to root for the Eagles. But Thorpe said that way of thinking goes out the window when money is on the line.
“The thing about gambling, a lot of times, is you can’t bet with your heart,” Thorpe said. “You have to bet based on statistics, by what you see and by how well the team is doing.”
Delaware’s full-scale sports betting is offered at its three casinos: Delaware Park, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, and Harrington Raceway & Casino.
John Hensley, Dover Downs general manager and senior director of horse racing and sports betting, said gamblers can place single-game bets on professional soccer, baseball, basketball, golf, NASCAR, hockey, the UFC and football, including Canadian football.
Sports betting is administered by the Delaware Lottery, and director Vernon Kirk said they work with Scientific Games, a company that provides gambling products and services to lottery and gambling organizations worldwide. Scientific Games is under contract with William Hill, an operation that sets the odds for Delaware’s sports betting.
No gold mine
While sports betting is bringing casinos extra money, financially it’s not a silver bullet, the state’s lottery director said.
“It’s not a ton of money. But there’s a profit there,” Kirk said.
Hensley said he isn’t counting on sports wagering being a big revenue source for Dover Downs.
“We’re looking at it more as a nice tool, a nice enhancement to our property to bring people in, enjoy this, and then hopefully enjoy the rest of the property,” he said.
The first two months of sports betting has brought in $1,336,442.
In June, sports booking accounted for $875,216.
In July, net monthly proceeds for sports booking across the state’s three casinos were $331,295 at Delaware Park, $91,196 at Dover Downs and $38,735 at Harrington, according to DeLottery.com, for a combined total of $461,226.
For most of the summer, baseball has been one of the top sports for wagering. Kirk said popular teams have been the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how far away gamblers are traveling here to place bets, he said. But he said Delaware’s casinos are certainly drawing bettors from the surrounding states.
Future of gambling
Kirk said it’s inevitable that surrounding states will begin to offer full-scale sports betting as well. Once that happens, he said Delaware Lottery won’t be able to motivate gamblers to travel.
Instead, it’ll be up to the three casinos to figure out how to draw customers.
“When customers have a good experience, they generally will come [back],” the lottery director said. “That’s really a casino’s job to make sure they have a good experience like that.”
Fear of addiction
The growth of sports betting has the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems -- a health agency tasked with providing programs and services for problem gamblers and their families -- concerned.
“I think it’s pretty much undisputed that the more opportunities people have to gamble, the more problem gamblers there will be,” said Jeff Wasserman, judicial outreach and development director for the council.
Arlene Simon, the council’s executive director, is also skeptical.
“What concerns me is sports betting is a really big pastime,” she said. “I fear [gamblers] are going to get very much involved and it will affect more people.”
Gambling addiction affected more than 2 percent of the population and had an estimated social cost of $7 billion in 2013, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Since full-scale sports betting started in June, Simon hasn’t noticed a negative effect on gamblers, she said. But she doesn’t take that to mean all is well.
“It takes a while for a problem gambler to recognize and to admit to himself or herself that they have a problem,” she said. “Two months isn’t going to do it.”
Wasserman said some of the early signs of a betting addiction are that they’re not paying attention to their family, they’re missing work or aren’t paying their bills.
Problem gamblers can participate in voluntary self-exclusion. Under this program, people can request to have a casino, or the Delaware Lottery, add their name to a list of people that want to be banned from a betting establishment. Those options are for one year, five years or for a lifetime.
Simon said voluntary self-exclusion is merely a Band-Aid for a problem gambler, not a cure for their addiction.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association classified problem gambling as a mental disorder.
“[Gamblers] can self-exclude at Dover Downs and, in a moment of frenzy, could end up in Maryland or Pennsylvania at another casino,” Simon said. “You’re always an addict. You can be in recovery for 40 years. You’re never cured.”
Wasserman said there’s a long-term solution to help addicts.
“The long-term treatment would be Gamblers Anonymous or counseling with a counselor who specializes in treating problem gambling,” he said. “There’s not one type of treatment for it.”
Help is here
Anyone with concerns about their problem gambling, or that of a loved one, can call the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems at 888-850-8888. The free and confidential helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers will speak to trained personnel who can assess their situation and make referrals.
If you’re not ready to talk, texting to 302-438-8888 is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.