Are Maryland Voters Ready To Approve Baltimore Airport Slot Machines?

Posted on February 7, 2022

The addition of Baltimore airport slot machines could soon provide flyers an entertaining distraction while they wait for flights.

Maryland Delegates Ric Metzgar and Susan Krebs recently filed House Bill 733. The Ways and Means Committee is expected to discuss the Republican lawmakers’ proposed legislation later this month.

The bill could bring about 1,000 slot machines to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (airport code BWI).

One reason the Baltimore airport slot machines could garner support? They’re not expected to cannibalize the Maryland casino industry.

Baltimore airport slot machines for ‘captive audience’

Anyone who’s traveled to Las Vegas has probably strolled through Harry Reid International Airport (previously called McCarran International Airport).

The Sin City terminals feature banks of slot machines as far as the eye can see. In fact, gambling at the airport has become a bit of a Vegas tradition for many gamblers.

Baltimore airport slot machines could have the same draw for East Coast travelers. Waiting for your plane? Delayed? Stuck in a layover? Kill some time with a slot machine.

In fact, Nevada’s two primary airports – LAS and Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) – pull in roughly $40 million of revenue per year with their slots.

The state currently has six casinos, the MD Lottery, horse racing and – beginning in December 2021 – legal sports betting in MD.

But like Vegas and Reno, the Baltimore airport slot machines could pull in some money from folks who are spending just a little time in Maryland. Or, they could simply be passing through the Old Line State without ever stepping foot outside of the airport.

As Del. Metzgar told WBALTV.com:

“Delayed flights, people are still at the airport hanging out, nothing to do – this is a captive audience, and it’s an opportunity for us to get outside money. … I think it is a great opportunity for income for the state of Maryland for many, many years to come.”

WBALTV spoke to a handful of airport visitors who said they supported the plan, largely because the revenue would benefit education and community initiatives in Maryland.

Is this the year for Baltimore airport slots?

MD lawmakers have previously tried to bring Baltimore airport slot machines to life without any luck. However, with the state’s recent adoption of legal sports betting, the support could finally be there.

The bill would “award more than 3,000 video lottery terminals for operation at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.” They would be located “in the terminal building and surrounding area within the security perimeter of (BWI).”

However, Maryland Aviation Administration officials say there’s probably room for just about 1,000 slots without crowding the concourse.

Ultimately, though, even if lawmakers approve the bill, Maryland voters will have the final say. As the state got more comfortable with legal gaming options, those voters approved legal sports betting by a 67-33 margin in 2020. So, that bodes well for the slot-machine prospects.

However, even if travelers don’t have access to Baltimore airport slot machines, they’ll soon have other options. Although five MD casinos offer in-person retail sports betting, full statewide online sports betting is expected to launch later this year.

Once it does, just about anyone of legal age in Maryland – whether in the Baltimore airport or elsewhere – will be able to wager on sports with their mobile devices. So, one way or another, airport travelers in Baltimore will have legal gambling options.

Photo by Shutterstock / Ely Penner
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