Dover International Speedway may be on the verge of becoming a unique track on the NASCAR circuit - and possibly in the world.
Thanks to state politicians' efforts to usher Delaware back into the sports-betting business, visitors to the Monster Mile in September could have the rare chance to wager legally on the stock-car race from the climate-controlled comfort of the trackside Dover Downs casino.
Although the track and hotel-casino are separately owned and operated, an air-conditioned grandstand overlooks the oval's backstretch. Behind the three-story-high enclosure is a horse-betting parlor where races are simulcast year-round and where casino management is considering installing a temporary sports book that would offer odds on any number of athletic events.
Consider the prospect of, say, placing a bet on the Eagles or Phillies before strolling to your seat, where you can sip a beer while witnessing a race that you put money on Jeff Gordon to win.
No wonder NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said that while the reintroduction of sports betting in Delaware "doesn't have an impact on us as a sport, it may add to the experience and fun for our fans."
While emphasizing that "our competitors understand that they are not to bet under any conditions," Poston said no improprieties had surfaced during years of races in Las Vegas, where bets are placed miles away from the speedway.
"A number of casinos have been involved in our sport as sponsors," Poston said. "We're one of the few major sports that has been able to integrate our world with gambling operations."
Ed Sutor, president and chief executive officer of Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, said wagering on races would benefit the casino as well as the track.
"If you look at the demographics, slot machines attract females with an average age of 55, and those people don't come anywhere near Dover during a race weekend," Sutor said. "Whereas sports betting is absolutely male-dominated - at about 90 percent male and an average age of 35. We're getting real close with what NASCAR attracts.
"Hopefully," he added, sports betting "will draw a lot more new fans to fill the seats at the racetrack. We think it will be a boon for business, but how much, we can't say. I hope we're pleasantly surprised."
Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports Inc., is taking a similar wait-and-see approach.
"This is one of those scenarios where, due to the unprecedented nature of it, it's difficult to predict what the outcome will be. We see it as a positive, but can't quantify it beyond that."
Sutor said that while there wouldn't be any sports-betting booths on track property, the ATM-type machines would be positioned anywhere there are televisions in the casino, including bars and restaurants. There are plans to renovate a vacant sports bar-restaurant in the casino's newest wing into a 7,500-square-foot sports book in time for the NFL season and well in advance of Dover's Sept. 25-27 race weekend.
And if the economy rebounds and sports betting takes off, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino management might just dust off plans for a $50 million, 50,000-square-foot Las Vegas-style sports book.