The intersection of gambling and politics can be tricky to navigate. Most legal gaming jurisdictions try to avoid going down that road altogether.
For example, Maryland casinos and gambling operators are not currently allowed to make political campaign contributions.
But one lawmaker now wants to eliminate this Maryland prohibition in the hopes of increasing campaign transparency.
Maryland bill could permit casino operators to fund political campaigns
Sixteen states currently have a ban on casino owners or licensed gaming employees from donating money to a political cause.
New Jersey is the most aggressive state in terms of restricting casinos’ access to politics. Nevada is on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Maryland falls somewhere in the middle — for now.
State Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore, introduced House Bill 54 in January. During a hearing on the bill, Cardin said the goal is to improve the status quo.
“I believe that our number one priority on legislation that we are passing is to try and create consistency, transparency and integrity in government processes.”
Sen. Cardin changes opinion on campaign contributions
This is not Cardin’s first attempt at restructuring Maryland’s campaign contribution laws related to the gambling industry.
In 2022, he introduced legislation prohibiting sportsbook operators from making political contributions. Maryland law does not explicitly restrict retail or online sportsbooks from direct or indirect campaign contributions.
That bill stalled after an initial hearing.
Voters approved legal sports betting in Maryland in November 2020. Casino sportsbooks began taking in-person bets in December 2021. Online sports betting launched on Nov. 23, 2022.
Casinos should be held to the same standard as pot, strip clubs?
During a Ways and Means Committee hearing on Jan. 24, Cardin said he is committed to creating “consistency” in the gambling industry, even if it means allowing for more contributions instead of fewer.
Cardin said that casino operators are using loopholes in the current law, which makes following the money more difficult.
State Delegate Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, sided with Cardin, noting other industries freely contribute to politics. Per the Baltimore Business Journal, Buckel said:
“We let bail bondsmen, opioid manufacturers, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, people who own adult entertainment establishments, we let all of them donate to anyone.”
Cardin represents Maryland’s 11th Legislative District, which includes Caesars Entertainment’s Horseshoe Baltimore Casino.