Parlay betting in Dover draws NASCAR fans

DOVER, Del. - As a light rain fell and jet engines worked feverishly to dry the track next door at Dover International Speedway, Chuck Priestley and four racing buddies from Havertown took refuge inside the new sports book at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.

Twenty minutes before the Eagles and other NFL teams kicked off yesterday on the oversize, high-definition televisions lining the tall walls of the $5 million bar and lounge, Priestley glanced quizzically at a card - roughly the size of a legal pad - containing pro football point spreads.

Because of a lawsuit by the NFL, Delaware can accept wagers only on three games or more.

"This is the first time I've ever bet on parlays," Priestley, 33, said as he tugged on his blue Dale Earnhardt Jr. ball cap. "I wish we could bet on single games."

Brian Mackay, 34, is a Tony Stewart fan and head of the Havertown group that has attended races here the last three years. He gave the sports book glowing marks, even though the law precluded him from betting on yesterday's AAA 400 Sprint Cup event.

"I feel like I'm back in high school," Mackay said with a laugh as he meticulously penciled in circles on a betting card.

The lounge and bar were full of fans sporting NASCAR and NFL gear, including nearly 100 bettors eagerly waiting to submit their picks, when a floor manager forcefully announced that betting on the early football games wound end in 15 minutes. Eleven tellers, some of whom seemed unsure of the nuances of parlay betting, manned stations for just the third weekend of legal sports betting here - and the first with a NASCAR crowd in town.

Standing in the middle of the vast room, longtime NASCAR fan Jim Hoyle soaked up the atmosphere, which he likened to Las Vegas. Wearing a Ricky Rudd cap and T-shirt, the 62-year-old from Bellmawr scanned his receipt for a bet that included the Eagles' opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I don't know that I'd bet on the race if I could," Hoyle said, "but I'm real comfortable with this. It's a pretty good alternative to Vegas."

Hoyle's son agreed.

"I thought this would be nice, but I had no idea it'd be this big," said Brian Hoyle, 29. "I would definitely come back down here, even on a non-race weekend."

That kind of talk is music to the ears of Ed Sutor, president and chief executive officer of Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, who oversaw yesterday's earlier-than-usual opening at 8 a.m.

"You look around, it's a younger, male-dominated crowd. This is a market we never had with just" slot machines in the casino, Sutor said from the entrance to the sports book. "We expect this to be our best week ever in sports betting, without a doubt."