Racinos and clean water plan discussed at Smyk's coffee gathering

Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, talks to constituents during a Meet and Greet at Surf Bagel recently. BY SUBMITTED
March 14, 2014

About a dozen people attended Rep. Steve Smyk’s, R-Milton, March coffee meeting to discuss topics ranging from the future of Delaware’s racinos to the proposal for a clean water fee.

Under the Clean Water Initiative, proposed by Gov. Jack Markell, the owners of large properties could pay as much as $25,000 to support water quality improvement efforts, including upgrades to stormwater management and wastewater treatment systems.

The details on how that fee will be calculated and applied are still uncertain. Implementing the plan will require the introduction and approval of legislation in the General Assembly.  Those bills have not yet been filed.

Also discussed at the March 11 meeting is the work of a legislative task force considering the fate of Delaware’s three racinos.  The operators of Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway and Delaware Park claim they cannot maintain profitability under the current revenue-sharing formula with the state.  New competition from casino venues in nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland have cut deeply into Delaware’s share of the regional market for legalized gambling.

When Delaware’s racinos opened their doors in 1996, they competed with 12 other casinos in the Mid-Atlantic region: 11 in Atlantic City and one in West Virginia.  This year, there are 31 casinos in the region, 24 of which are considered close enough to be in competition with Delaware.  Two additional casinos are expected to open by 2016 in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore metro area.

The task force will soon make recommendations on what the state can do to protect the several thousand jobs connected directly and indirectly with racino operations.

The Coffee with Steve meetings are intended to give the residents of the 20th District a regular opportunity to meet with their state representative. The gatherings are held the second Tuesday of each month, from 7 to 8 a.m., at the Surf Bagel Restaurant near Five Points.

The coffee and conversation are free.