Legal Maryland online casino could end up in the hands of the electorate

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Maryland’s new iGaming bill, SB 267, looks to leave legal online casino gaming, or iGaming, up to voters in the November 2024 ballot. 

The bill, introduced by Senators Nancy King and Ron Watson would give Maryland’s State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission the authority to issue iGaming operations licenses to video lottery (machine) operators, thus providing statewide access to mobile / online casino gaming. 

What does the Maryland bill look like?

The wording of the bill defines “Internet Gaming” as “Casino-style gaming through an online gaming system”. It offers no further granularity, so those wishing for Maryland online poker will have to wait for further clarity as to whether it would also be included and legalized in the bill. 

The initial license fee for an internet gaming license in Maryland will be set at $500,000, and those approved would be granted an initial term of 5 years. The license renewal fee is set to be ‘equal to 1% of the internet gaming licensee’s average annual proceeds retained by the licensee under 9-1F-05(B)(1)(II) of this subtitle for the preceding 3-year period’. 

The bill, as it stands, would only allow Maryland’s current six casinos to qualify to pursue an online gaming license. Before it goes through to ballot, the bill would need to gain two-thirds majority support in each legislative chamber. 

Although certain details, as listed above, have been made clear in the bill, it is far from an all-encompassing legislative framework and a lot of additional work would be needed should it pass and be voted through in the 2024 ballot. 

The question would read as follows: 

“Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland and authorize Internet gaming for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?” 

What it does do, however, is posit another potential commercial operator versus state campaign for the public vote in a ballot. If the results in California are anything to go by, an awful lot of money was spent by both sides and the commercial operators came out in crushing defeat – and that was just for sports betting.

This would be the first confirmed question to be added to the 2024 ballot, and could spur other bills to be put through state legislature with regards to online sports betting or online gaming ahead of 2024, the next opportunity for a ballot vote. 

Can you currently legally gamble in MD?

Maryland is unlike California, however, in that it has legal online sports betting, retail sports betting and retail casino. The legalization of online gaming would put Maryland on par with nearby states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and other advanced wagering states such as Michigan.