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McGlynn Thinks Betting To Put Dover In Clover

| Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 10 2009
Dover's Denis McGlynn hopes his track gets a boost from new Delaware gambling rules.

Dover's Denis McGlynn hopes his track gets a boost from new Delaware gambling rules.

By Bill Fleischman
Senior Correspondent

Dover, Del. – With no major league sports teams, Delaware doesn’t create much national news other than NASCAR racing at Dover International Speedway.

Stop the presses! The First State’s sports landscape is about to change dramatically.

The state legislature has passed a sports-betting bill, making Delaware the only state in the East where wagering on sports will be legal. Nevada, Oregon and Montana are the only other states that offer sports wagering.

Delaware hopes to have the betting system in place in time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in September.

This means NASCAR fans will be able to place bets on their favorite drivers. “Martha, I’m putting $10 on Tony Stewart to win. How ‘bout y’all? $10 on Jeff Gordon to win?”

“We’ll do everything they do in Vegas except straight bets on one team over another,” Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover International Speedway, said. He added that point spreads are needed to legally be a lottery.

“We’ll be the only state east of Montana where fans will be able to bet legally,” McGlynn said. “We should be able to attract a whole new demographic that we don’t get from slots.”

McGlynn said men from 30 to 50 years old are the predominant sports-betting demographic. According to McGlynn, the majority of slots customers at Dover’s casino are women 55 and older.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell estimates the state will receive $50 million in revenue in the first year of sports betting.

Whatever happens with sports betting, the little ol’ state of Delaware is attracting attention nationwide. McGlynn is aware that many people west of the Mississipppi River can’t find Delaware on a map. “They think Delaware is the capital of Maryland,” McGlynn said, laughing.

McGlynn wasn’t laughing when he heard about Jeff Burton’s remark prior to the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover. When Burton was asked if he thought NASCAR drivers might be tempted to place a wager or two at the Dover casinos, Burton said, “I find it hard to believe that location really has anything to do with it. Shady characters can come from Las Vegas as well as from Delaware.”

“I like Jeff Burton,” McGlynn said, “but some people have a knee-jerk reaction to sports betting. Thinking there are shady characters in the business is a leftover impression from the Capone era. Just because you place a bet in Vegas doesn’t make you shady.”

McGlynn, 63, has had an fascinating career at Dover. He joined the speedway staff in 1972 fresh out of the Air Force. The native New Yorker was a maintenance officer stationed at Dover Air Base. He began at the speedway in promotions and public relations.

During his interview with John Riddle, a former Air Force general who was directing the Dover Downs speedway and harness racing track, McGlynn said he didn’t know anything about racing but he could learn.

“He bought it,” McGlynn recalls. “I always wanted to work in sports. The greatest thing about this business is, it’s never dull.”

Back then, the speedway seating capacity was about 22,000 (now it’s 140,000). Three years later, McGlynn added director of operations to his duties. In 1979, after Riddle departed Dover to serve as president of Daytona International Speedway, McGlynn applied for his job.

John Rollins, a Delaware-based entrepreneur who owned Dover Downs, traditionally hired older executives. McGlynn gave Rollins the same pitch he gave Riddle. Rollins decided to let McGlynn run the place on an interim basis. 

“Everybody here was pulling for me,” McGlynn says. “They busted their butts to make sure everything was right.” In the fall, Rollins gave McGlynn the job. Since then, McGlynn has supervised Dover Motorsports Inc.’s expansion to owning several other race tracks.

| Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 10 2009
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