Harness Racing Coming To Sussex County? I Sure Hope Not

Posted: 08/15/2008 by that's Elbert in Delaware, News & Politics, opinions, Sussex County
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The Daily Times reported that Delaware Harness Racing Commission gave conditional approval to a harness race track which would be located just north of Millsboro on US Rt 113. The proposed track is being named Del Pointe. It will be a one-mile track with a 2500 seat grandstand and 750 seat clubhouse sitting on 110 acres. According to the article the track will have races when Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs are not racing.

Del Pointe’s owners are Gene Lankford and Preston Schell. According to the Daily Times, Lankford owns two hotels in Rehoboth Beach, Atlantic Sands and Breakers. He tells the Daily Times that the summer visitors to the beach are his target audience.

Here are four thoughts. First, if harness racing in Delaware has been so bad that it had to be propped up by slots at the state’s other tracks, why would anyone want to dump their money into a new track?

Second, if the track is allowed to build, how long would it take to set up some slot machines in there? My answer to that might be in this quote:

Lankford said Del Pointe doesn’t need slot machines to be successful, although he would not rule out the possibility of seeking future state approval.

Third, how well is Ocean Downs in Berlin/Ocean City doing? Were they not saying that they needed slots to make it work down there? Certainly they should be getting the benefit of a similar base that Del Pointe’s owners think they will attract.

Fourth, how close is this proposed track to Sussex Central High School, which is also north of Millsboro just off of RT 113?

This track isn’t a slam dunk yet. According to the article:

Before the commission awards racing dates to the proposed Del Pointe track, owners Gene Lankford and Preston Schell will have to obtain the necessary zoning changes and permits from Sussex County and submit plans for a track, grandstand and clubhouse that meets the commission’s approval, said Hugh Gallagher, the commission’s executive director.

This proposed race track could make for good campaign questions for each of our county council candidates.

The article in the Daily Times is here.

UPDATE: while I was wrapping this article up I found a companion article in the News Journal here. It has a map showing the land which looks to me to be sitting very close to Sussex Central High School.

UPDATE 2: I found another earlier News Journal article here.

  1. Howard says:

    I think that crap about how poor horseracing is doing in Delaware is just that – Horse crap. First, I don’t think horseracing is that much of an economic factor in Delaware, so if it disappeared it wouldn’t be a hardship. They just use the race tracks in order to get slots and what ever other kind of gambling in. I have no doubt if that track is approved and built, within a year the owners will be applying for slots. In addition I don’t doubt Delaware and Sussex County will provide grants etc to the racetrack because it is suppose to provide jobs. Eventually it will be the taxpayer who will be putting up money for them to build it.

  2. That is not a good location if you want to attract beach tourists. There isn’t a straight and direct route there from the beach. Rt 24 is clogged as it is, and probably needs to be dualized from Millsboro through Long Neck out to Rehoboth. I doubt it would add much traffic in reality, but that would be a primary concern.

    Google Maps says it would take only 30 minutes to travel there, but anyone who has traveled during the summer knows you can add 15-20 minutes with traffic.

    If they wanted to put it on the other side of Long Neck, it would be a better location for all involved.

    Honestly, though, who races and bets on dogs and horses anymore?

  3. Well said, Howard!

    You’re right Brian, how many of our generation bet on horses? I don’t know anyone, but I have a small and mostly religious circle of friends. There’s a guy at work around 40-ish that has been in Harrington with his wife, but they don’t gamble, they go for the food. He was emphatic about the “no gambling” thing, and he’s not a religious man. He said the food is great, though, and cheap. That’s my two favorite combinations!