Legalizing online casino and poker gambling in Maryland inched closer to fruition on Feb. 9 as Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary filed a House equivalent to the Senate’s online casino bill. Sen. Ron L. Watson’s legislation is already working its way through that body.
Atterbeary, D-Howard County, saw fast movement on the proposed legislation she filed on Feb. 9. HB1319 has already had its first reading, is filed in the Ways and Means Committee, and is scheduled for a Feb. 26 hearing in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Watson, D-Prince George’s County, introduced his version of the Maryland online casino bill in two parts. First, on Jan. 25, he filed the measure to bring the iGaming measure to voters in November if the House and Senate approve legalizing online casino and poker gambling. Then, on Jan. 26, SB603 was published. It’s resting in the Budget and Taxation Committee.
Watson’s bill is scheduled for a Feb. 28 Senate hearing.
The measures appear similar in most regards, except that the House bill proposes higher taxes. Atterbeary also included the ballot question language alongside the implementation details, rather than filing them as separate bills.
The key differences in the tax rate are:
- Atterbeary proposes taxing iGaming operators at 55%, while Watson suggested 47%
- She added a 20% tax rate on “proceeds from live dealer games.” Online casino operators contract with studios to offer human croupiers on their apps
Watson separated the ballot measure bill into SB565, filed on Jan. 25.
Maryland law requires changes to the state constitution regarding gambling to receive voter approval. However, Gov. Wes Moore‘s okay isn’t necessary after a referendum.
Opponents Are Already Mobilizing
If it seems as though Atterbeary and Watson have already presented iGaming to members of the Maryland General Assembly, that’s because the Delegate held a committee briefing on research related to the measures on Jan. 18.
That study showed Maryland may see $900 million in annual revenue from iGaming.
However, that may be a conservative estimate, considering Watson proposed a 47% tax rate on operators.
Meanwhile, what concerned bill opponents at the briefing was the study’s finding that land-based casinos may lose 10% of their revenue if iGaming is legalized.
The naysayers want retail casino revenue and jobs preserved. Watson says that’s not realistic for several reasons, including new casinos being built in neighboring Virginia. Those are already pulling money away from Maryland, he said.
Watson also told Bonus that legal online casinos and poker gambling would create more jobs. For instance, operators interested in offering live dealer games will have to use a studio built in Maryland.