Maryland Assembly the Last Remaining Hope for Legalizing Online Casinos & Poker

If Marylanders see a ballot question in November asking if they want to legalize Maryland online casino gambling, it’ll be because of Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary‘s efforts. Because on March 13, state Sen. Ron L. Watson told Bonus the Senate decided against furthering his bills.

Electors among Maryland’s 6 million residents must decide if they want to legalize online casino and poker gambling because the iGaming options represent gambling expansion. Therefore, voters need to choose whether they want to change the state constitution to make it legal.

Maryland online casino gambling won’t be available until at least 2025, if voters approve it in November.

However, to allow them to do so, lawmakers must first approve proposed legislation outlining the new type of online gambling.

That’s coming closer to happening. On March 13, members of the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee voted to move HB1319 to the House floor.

Watson, D-Prince George’s County, said to Bonus:

I do not believe the Senate version of the iGaming Bill or the referendum will move forward at this time. The general consensus of the Senate is that a balanced budget has been developed and submitted. And, as such, no new taxes are required, nor are they ready to entertain this new revenue stream.

However, he told Bonus, the House has “a sense of urgency” to pass the bill proposed by Atterbeary, D-Howard County.

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates see a need for the $300 million in tax revenue that online casino and poker may generate in 2028, Watson said. Atterbeary’s HB1319 outlines generating those tax dollars through a 55% tax on online gambling operators and a 20% tax on online casino live dealer games. Operators will likely pay that bill, too, because they contract with live dealer studios, which provide human croupiers via video streams for the apps.

Watson told Bonus his thoughts about the consequence of the Senate consensus:

Based on this, I believe the House version will be introduced in the Senate before the crossover deadline, as it was voted out of committee yesterday.

Watson was referencing the 3-2 vote in the House Racing and Gaming Subcommittee on March 12.

UPDATE: 03/14/2024

As expected, Atterbeary’s bill was filed with the House chamber on March 14.

It’s listed as “Favorable with Amendments Report by Ways and Means.”

House Maryland Online Casino Bill Progresses

After the March 13 committee vote, Del. Chao Wu emphasized that voting in favor of allowing Marylanders to decide if they want iGaming was about funding education. Wu, D-Howard County, said the vote wasn’t about a desire to legalize additional forms of gambling.

In addition to the tax revenue from iGaming operations, Atterbeary noted before the March 12 subcommittee vote that there may be as many as 30 licenses granted to operators. Those will each cost $1 million.

Land-based casinos “by right” can apply for one to three licenses each, she said. Each operator will have to show at least 5% inclusion of “social equity” ownership for the first license. That rises to 33% for the second and third licenses, Atterbeary said.

Meanwhile, amendments require operators not to allow online gamblers to deposit in their accounts using credit cards. Also, gamblers will have to opt out of being contacted by counselors meant to ensure that they’re gambling responsibly.

Finally, an amendment adds language prohibiting licensees from doing business with entities that received revenue from jurisdictions involved in money laundering, terror activities, or illegal gambling.

A representative of the gaming trade group iDEA Growth immediately posted his thoughts on X:

HB1319 Must Move to the Senate by March 18

A deadline is fast approaching for HB1319. To meet what’s called an Opposite Chamber Bill Crossover Date, HB1319 must pass in the House to be introduced in the Senate. Then, a final vote must happen before the legislature adjourns on April 8.

The same is true for Watson’s bills. However, Watson doesn’t think his chamber will approve SB565 and SB603.

Watson concluded in the Bonus interview on March 13:

We will see what action the Senate takes once the bill comes over.

In any case, whether or not the bill passes this year, we have a framework upon which to build upon. iGaming is the future and is the next logical step in modernizing and maximizing casino revenue.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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