Cash-hungry states have long tried to poach business from one another. Now many are stepping up their efforts to lure gamblers from their neighbors to their growing ranks of slot machines, leaving states like Delaware, which embraced gambling early, struggling to keep up in what has become a feverish one-armed-bandit arms race.
Gambling revenue accounts for more than 7 percent of Delaware’s general fund budget, making it the state’s fourth biggest revenue stream, ahead of its corporate income tax and gross receipts tax. But when new casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania began to attract the gamblers who once fed quarters into Delaware’s machines, the state acted. First it legalized a form of sports betting. Then it allowed table games including blackjack, craps and roulette. But its gambling revenues have continued to fall.
So at the end of June, Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed a law that could make Delaware the first state to offer Internet gambling — giving its residents the chance to bet on video lottery games and online versions of games like poker, blackjack and roulette without leaving their homes.
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