Delaware will launch a free-play online casino offering on Wednesday as the state prepares to become the first in the union to offer real-money online casino gambling starting in late October. When the clock strikes 6am local time on Wednesday, the websites of Delaware’s three brick-and-mortar casinos – Delaware Park, Dover Downs and the Harrington Raceway and Casino – will unveil free-play casino games courtesy of DoubleDown Casino, whose parent company International Game Technology already supplies the casino equipment available on the brick-and-mortar casino floors.
The free-play slots, poker, blackjack, roulette and other casino table games will operate via Facebook. Players will either have to be 21 years of age or will need to have a parent or guardian sign up on their behalf. State secretary of finance Thomas Cook said the initial free-play phase “will allow us to get players acclimated with the virtual world in a legalized environment.” Cook has suggested the online offering will likely be extended to include mobile versions by 2014.
Governor Jack Markell signed his state’s online gambling legislation in June 2012, and this May the state selected a consortium of UK online gambling operator 888 Holdings and US lottery operator Scientific Games to operate the real-money online offering. Nevada already has one licensed real-money online poker site up and running and New Jersey is planning a late-November launch of its full-slate of online gambling options, but barring any acts of God (and/or Adelson), Delaware will go into the record books as the first state to take real money online casino wagers.
Until that momentous date arrives, Dover Downs CEO Ed Sutor said the free-play offering would be used as a way to lure regional customers into the casinos via special promotional offers advertised on the sites. Sutor told the News Journal that the state’s casino operators “recognize [online gambling] is coming” and that social casino gaming is popular among the younger demographics that most brick-and-mortar establishments are finding increasingly harder to attract these days.