For the first time in a decade, Delaware residents are about to see a new online casino product launch in their state, as the Delaware State Lottery has signed an operating agreement with Rush Street Interactive (RSI). In the process, the state will lose its existing 888-powered product, which has been the only one available since 2012.
RSI announced that it was the Lottery’s final selection on Aug. 17. Neither party has said when the transition from 888 to RSI will take place. However, the rules for the selection process stipulated that any potential bidder must be able to launch by Nov. 1, 2023, at the latest.
RSI’s CEO Richard Schwartz said:
This partnership is yet another significant milestone for RSI, as the confidence of a state-backed organization, such as the Delaware Lottery, further validates the trust that lottery officials have in our award-winning online platform and customer service.
Like 888’s contract, the arrangement with RSI will likely last ten years. Officially, it is only for a five-year term to begin with. However, the Lottery has the option to add up to five one-year extensions before it must conduct another bidding process.
Delaware was the first legal online casino market in the US, beating New Jersey to launch by a few months in 2013. However, its monopoly model, small population and limited game selection have made it the weakest performer among iGaming states. However, the change in partner may help with that last issue, as will the upcoming addition of online sports betting.
In other states, RSI operates under the BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse brands. By contrast, it will operate three similar products in Delaware using the names of the state’s three retail racetrack casinos: Delaware Park, Bally’s Dover, and Harrington Raceway.
What Should Delaware Online Casino Players Expect?
RSI and the Delaware Lottery will surely try to make the switch as smooth as possible for players. However, it will mean a complete change in the technology underlying the casinos. The product’s look, feel, and interface are likely to be different. Although they won’t bear the BetRivers name, the new Delaware online casinos will probably offer an experience similar to what you’d find on RSI’s platforms in other states.
The game selection will likely change as well, but not completely. Most casino games come from third-party suppliers, not from casino operators themselves. Just like you’ll find the same slots themes in different retail casinos, there’s a lot of overlap between online operators’ catalogs. If anything, the selection is likely to expand. Without any competition in the state, 888 had little incentive to sign new deals, while RSI already has many multistate partnerships.
One important aspect of the Lottery’s request for proposals was that bidders must have a plan to integrate mobile sports betting into the platform. Retail sports betting has been available in Delaware since 2018. Online betting has been a legal possibility since then, too, but it never rolled out on the 888 platform. It isn’t clear whether the new RSI product will have sports betting available from day one or will add it at a later date.
There is one significant downside to the change in operator. Delaware residents will lose access to WSOP online poker. Although Caesars owns the brand, 888 supplies the technology. So, no 888 means no WSOP.
That said, RSI owns an online poker product, having acquired Phil Galfond’s Run It Once Poker last year. Will it bring the brand to Delaware? Probably not right away. Although RSI hasn’t commented on the possibility, Delaware lacks the population to support a standalone poker site. RSI first needs to launch Run It Once in New Jersey or Michigan to have enough players to build a sustainable multistate network.
RSI Appears to Have Been Selected by Default
Early on, the Delaware contract selection process appeared to be a two-horse race between 888 and RSI. However, iGaming Business observed earlier this month that 888 had withdrawn its application.
888 hasn’t commented on why. However, even with a monopoly, it was not making much money in Delaware. Monthly gross gaming revenue for the state exceeded $1 million for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the all-time high was $1.4 million in March 2023. The full-year total for 2022 was $13.6 million, and the state kept roughly two-thirds of that. For 888, that would leave less than half of what even the tiniest operators make in Michigan or Pennsylvania.
The company may also be losing interest in the US market generally. WSOP changed technology partners to GGPoker for its launch in Canada and may be considering its options in the US. Meanwhile, 888’s partnership with Sports Illustrated to form SI Sportsbook hasn’t gone as either party hoped. Despite the sports focus of the brand, it has attempted to pivot to the online casino vertical, launching an SI Casino product in Michigan. So far, it has failed to achieve even a 1% market share.
RSI may put more effort into its Delaware product than 888 did and fare better as a result. Interestingly, though, it has just pulled out of a similar lottery partnership in Connecticut, having failed to find traction there. However, the problem in Connecticut was that it could only legally offer sports betting while competing with two integrated sportsbook-casino apps operated by the state’s gaming tribes. In Delaware, it will have a monopoly and a full-featured product.
Unless Delaware moves away from the monopoly model, it will always be one of the smallest US markets. However, the change in operator could bring it closer in per capita terms to a market like Connecticut or West Virginia. Moreover, what difference it makes—if any—may provide important insight for those seeking to make predictions about Rhode Island, which will soon launch its own market along similar lines with Bally’s as the partner.