Delaware Racinos Debut Play-Money Online Gaming Sites

Delaware’s push to become the first US state to offer real-money online casino games to its residents moved a step closer to reality with this morning’s debut of play-money games, offered via IGT’s DoubleDown Casino online gaming platform.

Each of the three licensed Delaware racinos — Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway — have now included gateway pages and links to the IGT launch site for DoubleDown.  The Delaware offerings officially went live at 6 a.m. ET this morning, and can be accessed either directly via through the Doubledown Interactive site (sans the Delaware-specific branding), or through the launch pages for the three state racinos.

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Despite significant mainstream coverage today, the actual implementation is really nothing more than simple banner links on the three sites to the IGT free-play offering, which can be played as a Facebook app.  As one would expect, the DoubleDown offerings are open to all players, regardless of residency.

Today’s news is something of a misdirection ploy.  The bigger story from Delaware won’t happen until late October, when real-money gaming for the same three casinos are now scheduled to go live.   Today’s launch and attendant press coverage also included the tacit acknowledgment that the state has been unable to meet its originally planned September 1st launch date.

As Tom Cook, Delaware’s Secretary of Finance, told USA Today, “We set forth what I would call an aggressive goal of September.  I said from the beginning this is something that, when it’s ready, it’s ready.”

Oddly, the IGT Doubledown Casino platform won’t even be the one used when real-money gaming (including poker) goes live.  That platform continues to be under development by the primary winning vendors in the application process designed by the Delaware Lottery, a consortium of Scientific Games, 888 Holdings, and Williams Interactive LLC.  Scientific Games, Delaware’s primary vendor for the state’s lottery operations, enjoys a “long-term alliance” relationship with IGT, the parent company of DoubleDown Interactive.

Therefore, despite today’s ado, the play-money linkup is something of a placeholder move, a step designed to keep some media attention focused on Delaware — and perhaps to snag some extra e-mail address and other consumer information — while the state waits a few extra weeks to get the cash sites tested and running.

Cook, the Delaware finance secretary had initially estimated the state would rake in $3.75 million from online gambling in 2013’s final few months.  That figure will now be much lower, perhaps $2 million, and the state will probably endure trimmed 2014 revenues as well from their initial projections, as the offerings come up to speed and accrue market share.  Cook and the Delaware Lottery, the oversight agency for the upcoming online gambling offerings, have accepted the responsibility for the real-money rollout delays.

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