Maryland House Advances Online Casino & Poker Bill, Beating Senate Crossover Deadline

Ultimately, “the people” will decide whether Maryland gains legal real-money online casino and poker gambling, the sponsor of HB1319 has said. That November ballot measure is coming closer to happening now that Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary‘s bill has crossed over from the House to the Senate on March 16.

If the Senate approves HB1319, voters will be asked to approve iGaming in November. Sites wouldn’t launch until at least 2025 because the regulator must lay the groundwork for the marketplace.

Maryland law requires gambling expansion to be approved by electors because it modifies the state constitution. Unlike other bills, Gov. Wes Moore needn’t sign it.

Atterbeary, D-Howard County, said before the 92-43 vote on March 16:

Currently, in the state of Maryland, there is illegal iGaming going on to the tune of about $200 million a year, where individuals are playing where there are no safeguards on there and they’re playing with somebody in Curaçao or somebody running it.

So, this would at least put parameters on it. And regulations on it. And regulate that illegal market.

Del. Antonino D. Mangione, R-Baltimore County, added:

That’s my concern because we were playing games like this in college, a long time ago, at probably some offshore place. And you have no idea if it’s rigged or not.

So, I want to make sure if people are going to be gaming on their phone that they’re not just basically playing a losing hand, so to speak, automatically. And it’s actually a fair shake if they are going to be gambling. And it’s not corrupted by just a computer.

Atterbeary responded:

This would be a regulated market. It’s a highly, highly regulated industry.

Maryland’s iGaming regulator will be the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC).

Atterbeary added that the commission will adopt the highest standard for responsible gaming. It’s more agile than the Maryland General Assembly. She said so after other delegates proposed amendments requiring in-person deposits before account holders could bet on the apps. They thought it would slow down gambling and verify identities better than the online gambling operators could. The amendments failed.

What Now for the Real-Money Online Casino Bill?

March 18 was the “crossover” deadline for HB1319. However, with the March 16 vote, the Maryland online casino and poker bill moved from the House to the Senate two days ahead of that deadline.

Meanwhile, legislation proposed by state Sen. Ron L. Watson, D-Prince George’s County, outlined two real-money online casino and poker bills.

One, SB565, was dedicated to authorizing a referendum. It and Watson’s other bill, SB603, haven’t moved since a Senate committee held a lengthy hearing on them on Feb. 28.

On March 13, Watson told Bonus that the Senate had decided against advancing his online casino and poker bill because chamber members believed Maryland had a balanced budget and didn’t need iGaming revenue.

He added on March 13 regarding Atterbeary’s HB1319:

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.

Atterbeary’s iGaming Framework

HB1319, the bill the Senate will consider, contains details beyond authorizing a November referendum.

In the real-money online casino and poker bill Atterbeary sponsored and the amendments adopted since, HB1319 outlines 30 iGaming sites. 

Each iGaming operator must include “social equity” owners. Account holders can’t use credit cards and will need to opt out if they don’t want to be contacted by gambling counselors.

Licensees would pay a $1 million license fee for the first five years of operation. Additionally, online gambling operators would pay Maryland taxes — 55% overall and 20% for live dealer games. Online casinos partnering with live dealer studios must house the facilities and their croupiers within the state. Also, studios for partnerships with land-based casinos would need to be within the counties housing those casinos.

Watson said Atterbeary’s bill will generate $300 million in tax revenue in 2028. In Atterbeary’s Feb. 26 committee hearing, iGaming advocates said HB1319 would fund Maryland pre-K once other funding sources dry up.

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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