Delaware was the second state in the country to enact a comprehensive legalization and regulatory scheme for online poker (Nevada was the first) when the state legislature passed the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012.
As with live poker, online poker in Delaware is governed by the state lottery. Under the DGCA, the state lottery has broad powers to license and regulate the operation of internet lotteries and online table games, including poker. The hardware and software on which the games are run is required to be physically present in the state of Delaware, and customers are geo-restricted to the confines of the state.
Online gambling launched in Delaware on October 30, 2013, making Delaware the second state with legal online poker in the US as they joined Nevada (Nevada launched their online poker products in April of 2013) and the first state with comprehensive online gambling, beating New Jersey to the punch by a month.
Three “Racinos” in the state are authorized to provide online gambling games provided by the partnership of Scientific Games and 888 Holdings through the state lottery: Harrington Raceway, Delaware Park and Dover Downs.
In February of 2014 the governors of Delaware and Nevada signed an interstate agreement that will see the pooling of both state’s online gamblers. The agreement is the first of its kind, and is expected to trigger sometime in early 2015.
Despite a seemingly blanket prohibition on gambling in the state constitution at Article II, Section 17, you can definitely find live poker in Delaware. On a typical Saturday night, the Delaware Park might have 20 tables in action. Dover Downs Casino and Harrington Casino also offer small-stakes hold’em cash games and tournaments.
The surprising abundance of poker is due to constitutional exceptions to the gambling ban for lotteries and race tracks. In 2009, seeking to help ailing tracks, Governor Jack Markell introduced legislation to add table games and poker to the track’s offerings under the auspices of the state lottery. Markell’s bill was quickly passed by both house of the state legislature and signed into law. The first poker games were spread in the summer of that year.
The state neither explicitly authorizes nor prohibits home poker games. Such games would presumably fall under the constitutional ban on gambling. Title 11, Chapter 5 of the Delaware Criminal Code specifies gambling offenses to be so general in nature that a home game could fall therein. However, we’re unaware of any such prosecution ever being brought.