There are 29 casinos within 100 miles of Delaware, with more expected in the near future. That kind of competition makes it a buyers’ market for customers of the state’s three casinos—Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington.
It translates to top-notch food and beverage service, courteous wait staff, helpful dealers, and, casino management would have you believe, some of the friendliest slot machines on the East Coast. What’s more, there are table games such as roulette. That means no more bus trips to Atlantic City.
Whether you’re an experienced player or someone who is new to gaming, the best way to look at gambling is to treat it as entertainment, not a means to riches, says Patti Key, CEO of Harrington Raceway and Casino.
Adds Bill Fasey, president of Delaware Park in Wilmington, “If you don’t understand the game, you shouldn’t be sitting down to play.” He advises table games newbies to visit at a slower hour—weekday mornings, for instance—to watch. If there is no one at the table, he says, dealers will readily explain the game. “They’re very friendly that way.”
Such affability is typical of Delaware’s casino scene, where excitement, entertainment and ambience continue to attract customers despite a highly competitive market. For more about each casino, plus a description of the most popular games, read on.
Slots: 2,540; 1- , 2- , 5- , 10- , 25- and 50-cent, $1, $2, $5, $10, $25 and $50.
Table games: 42; Blackjack, craps, roulette, Pai Gow poker, mini- and midi-baccarat, three-card poker, four-card poker, Let It Ride, Texas Hold ’Em.
Racing: Live thoroughbred racing April through October
Entertainment: Live music Friday and Saturday nights at the Hops Bar
Dining: Six dining areas and two bars, plus Terrace Dining Room overlooking the track and barbecue in the picnic grove during the racing season
Golf: White Clay Country Club, on the Delaware Park grounds
Slots: 2,600; 1- , 2- , 5- , 10- , 25- and 50-cent, $1, $2, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100.
Table games: 40; Craps, roulette and 32 card games (including blackjack, Spanish 21, baccarat, three-card poker, Pai Gow poker, Texas Hold ’Em, no-limit and limit games).
Racing: Live harness racing from end of October through mid-April
Entertainment: The only Delaware casino with a hotel, Dover Downs brings performers such as Wayne Newton, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, Bill Cosby and Meatloaf to its 1,600-seat Rollins Center. Regular events include Karaoke Mondays, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley tributes, and three or four boxing events each year. The hotel also has a full-service spa and spa suites.
Dining: 10 dining areas plus four bars and lounges
Golf: Discounts available at nearby Wild Quail Country Club for Capital Club members
Slots: 1,838; 1- , 2- , 5- , 10- , 25- and 50-cent, $1, $5, $10, $20, $25, and $5 electronic blackjack and $1 electronic roulette.
Table games: 49; Blackjack, craps, roulette, mini- and midi-baccarat, Pai Gow poker, three-card poker, four-card poker, Mississippi stud poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ’Em, Bonus Let It Ride, Spanish 21, Big Six Wheel.
Racing: Harness racing April 17-June 30 and Aug. 14-Oct. 27, Sunday through Thursday
Entertainment: Friday Night Live offers a variety of entertainers, including rock ’n’ roll, comedy and vaudeville
Dining: Nine dining areas, including a restaurant and snack bar at the track, which features a recently remodeled clubhouse, and daily carving board specials.
Hours: All three casinos are open 24/7. Peak hours are Fridays and Saturdays, especially during late afternoon and evening, and Sundays during the day. There is less traffic on weekdays and even less overnight, especially after alcohol sales end at 1 a.m.
Betting: Sports betting is limited to NFL games and horse racing. Delaware casinos are the only ones on the East Coast able to offer parlay wagering (minimum of three games) on NFL games. Players must pick the winners in all games in the parlay in order to win. Bets must be made in person at the casinos’ sports books. The Delaware Lottery also offers “Off the Board” parlays, teasers and teaser card wagering. Betting on horse races from across the country is available through year-round simulcasts at all three casinos.
Comps: Promotional compensation varies from casino to casino, but, generally, the more you gamble, the greater the comp. Players can join members clubs, making them eligible for frequent promotions and giveaways, invitation-only events, discounts on golf, race-book seats and programs, and shopping in casino gift shops. At Dover Downs, room comps are a major perk. Barry Brothers and his wife, Lynn, travel from Newport News, Va., once a month to visit Dover, bringing a bankroll of $4,000 to $6,000. Brothers says he has never had to pay for a room at the hotel.
Page 2: How Much to Bet?
Whether they play slots or table games, novice gamblers would do well to follow the advice of Steve French, a dealer at Delaware Park. French, a blackjack expert (he was once asked to leave a Las Vegas table because, essentially, he was playing at too high a level), has seen it all.
“One gentleman brought his last $45 to my table and won $2,000,” he says. “Then I watched him give it all back. Everybody at the table was encouraging him to walk away, but he just couldn’t.” On the other hand, another player at his table won $30,000 in a couple of hours.
His cardinal rule: Don’t over-bet. “You’ll see a lot of people come in with, say, a hundred-dollar bill and they’ll play $25 a hand,” he says. “Well, if you lose four hands in a row, you’re out the door.”
He suggests that your biggest bet should be 1/50th of your bankroll. And be sure to have a bankroll suitable to the game. “If you’re at a $10 table,” he says, “you should come in with a minimum of $500 if you’re looking to play for an extended time.”
Page 3: The Payout | C’mon. It’s what you really want to know.
C’mon. It’s what you really want to know.
Slots By law, video lottery machines—slots—must pay out at least 87 percent on an annual basis, and no greater than 95 percent. Delaware casinos return an average of 92 percent on slots, leaving the house with an 8 percent “hold.”
Though these percentages seem to favor the customer, remember that the payout is on an annual or cumulative basis. So based on the 8 percent hold, if you bet $100 and win $92, then bet the $92, you will win $85. Following this formula, your winnings keep dropping. Soon the house starts winning.
Tables On table games, introduced last summer at all three casinos, the hold is about 15 percent, according to Ed Sutor, chief executive at Dover Downs and chairman of the state’s Video Lottery Advisory Council.
The percentage doesn’t apply to blackjack, where a skilled player can be a consistent winner. Nor does it apply in Texas Hold ’Em and seven-card stud.
Playing Others Those are Kelly Lord’s games of choice. The 37-year-old Elkton, Md., resident, who has been playing poker since he was 8, likes his chances in those games because he is gambling against other players, not the house.
“I don’t play games against the house,” Lord says. As for slots, “I think they’re for suckers. I equate it to the lottery. You put in money and hope to win. I don’t play any machines unless I’m walking out the door and pass one and I happen to have a coin in my hand. I’ll drop it in just to see what happens.”
Page 4: Jackpot! | Now what do you tell the IRS?
Now what do you tell the IRS?
Win $1,200 or more on slots, and you will get a Form W-2G from the casino showing your winnings. The IRS also now requires all poker tournament sponsors to report competitors’ winnings of more than $5,000. In addition to telling Uncle Sam that you were a winner and how much, the casino usually reduces your payout by withholding federal taxes at the 25 percent rate.
Remember, even if you didn’t win enough to trigger W-2G filing, you should report your winnings—from the W-2G or smaller jackpots—on line 21 (“Other income”) of tax Form 1040. You can reduce the amount of money the IRS will tax by reporting your losses as part of your overall itemized deductions. Check line 28 (“Other Miscellaneous Deductions”) on Schedule A. That’s where you report any gambling losses. You can claim up to the total amount of winnings you entered on your 1040, effectively wiping out any taxable gambling income. But make sure that this deduction, along with your other itemizations, is more than the standard amount.
Page 5: Tips Are Appreciated
Though tipping is not necessarily expected, it is common. Dealers, in particular, are somewhat dependent on tips, since they make only $5 per hour. Players most often tip—with chips—during the game after, say, a winning blackjack hand, or when they leave the table. Sometimes the tip is in the form of a bet for the dealer. Kelly Lord says $1 or $2 tips for winnings of $50 and $5 for $200 are typical.
Page 6: Popular Games | You’ve never played before? Here’s How
You’ve never played before? Here’s how.
Blackjack The goal is to draw cards that total 21, or come closer to 21 than the dealer, without exceeding that number.
To start, each player receives two cards. The dealer’s first card faces up, the second faces down. All face cards count as 10. All other cards count at face value except for the ace, which counts as 1 or 11—player’s choice.
If you do not have blackjack, you can “stand,” playing the cards you have, or you can ask the dealer to “hit” you, or give you another card. You may draw as many cards as you like (one at a time), but if you go over 21, you “bust” and lose the hand.
After all players are satisfied with their hands, the dealer turns his down card face up and stands or draws. He must draw to any count up to and including 16, and stand on 17. (Some casinos require that the dealer stand on any 17, though others require that they hit a “soft” 17—an ace and any other combination of cards totaling 17.)
A winning hand pays 1:1. If you have blackjack, the payoff is 3:2, unless the dealer also has blackjack, in which case the hand is a “push” (tie) and neither hand wins.
Craps This is a fast-moving game with loud, enthusiastic players, which can make it intimidating to some newcomers. There are about 40 different bets that can be made on a craps layout, but to get started, all you need to understand is the basic passline bet: Place your bet on the passline before a new shooter begins his roll. This is known as the “come out roll.” If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, you win. If the shooter rolls a 2, 3 or 12, you lose. If the shooter rolls any other number, that number becomes the point number. The shooter must roll the point number again before a seven is rolled. If that happens, you win even money for your passline bet. If a seven is rolled before the point number is rolled again, you lose.
Roulette The roulette wheel has 36 numbers from 1 to 36, a 0, and usually a 00. The numbers are alternately colored red and black, with the 0 and 00 green. Play begins when the players have placed most of their bets by putting chips on the numbered layout. The dealer spins a white ball in the opposite direction of the spinning wheel. Bets may be placed until the ball is ready to leave the track and fall onto the spinning wheel. At this point, the dealer calls out, “No more bets.” The ball falls onto a number on the wheel, the dealer places a marker on the winning number, and bets are paid accordingly. Chips (also known as “checks”) range in value. Buy them in stacks of 20 from the dealer. You determine what the checks are worth when you buy-in and are given a color. Many different bets can be made in roulette, with many possible payouts. Players can make two types of bets, inside and outside. It’s advisable to start with outside bets, which have higher probabilities of winning than inside bets.
Three-Card Poker Says one fan, “Three-card is fun because you’re not competing against your fellow players, and there is nothing you can do to affect them. Every player is only competing individually against the dealer.”
You can make two bets: ante and pair plus. You can bet one or both. The ante is a wager against the dealer. Pair Plus is independent of what the dealer has and is only a wager on whether your three-card hand will have a pair or higher in it. The Pair Plus wager loses if the player has less than a pair. It wins with a pair or better.
Once you’ve made your bets, you receive three cards. If you made the ante bet, you must decide whether to bet that your hand is better than the dealer’s, or you must fold. If you fold, you lose your ante bet. If you decide to play your hand, you place a bet equal to your ante bet in the “play” spot on the table.
After all bets are made, the dealer turns up his cards. He must have at least a queen to play, otherwise he doesn’t qualify. That means players are paid 1:1 on their ante bet and take back their play bet. If the dealer’s hand qualifies, he compares his hand against each player to determine the winner.
The ranks of hands from best to worst in three-card poker are: straight flush, three of a kind, straight, flush, pair, high card.
If you win, you are paid 1:1 on your ante and play bets. If your hand is a straight or better, you receive a bonus on top of the standard payout. The bonus applies to both the ante bet and the pair plus bet.