Possible Credit Card Use For Charities Could Morph Into MD iGaming Debate

Written By Hill Kerby on December 15, 2023
Photo of a raffle ticket with Maryland and credit card logos on a story about being used for charity raffles.

An October proposal from the Frederick City Council is making its way into legislative discussions before Maryland’s 2024 General Assembly session begins on Jan. 10.

The proposal would allow nonprofit organizations within the county to accept credit card payments for online gaming fundraisers, such as raffles.

Similarly, online gambling will enter the discussion during next year’s session. If lawmakers allow charitable iGaming events to accept credit card payments, online casinos would have an easier path to do the same.

Same rules currently don’t apply to everyone

Maryland’s situation differs from case to case regarding which gambling operators can and cannot allow credit card payments. Online sports betting and third-party lottery ticket sales allow for credit cards. Lottery tickets purchased through the Maryland Lottery do not. Other forms of online gambling, including Maryland online casinos, are illegal and thus make for a moot discussion on the matter.

However, Maryland’s first attempt at passing a bill to legalize online casino gambling and online poker surfaced earlier this year. Senate Bill 267 failed to make it through the General Assembly, but there’s hope for a new bill to pass in 2024.

While the state leaves its 23 counties to regulate charitable gaming, it requires the 21 that allow it to follow the same rules as state-licensed lottery retailers. As such, charities in those counties must relegate their fundraising efforts to cash-only events.

A chance to evolve with the times

As a byproduct of not allowing credit cards, charities cannot run online gaming events that collect funds electronically. This became an issue in 2020 when Frederick County’s Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company unsuccessfully tried to run an online raffle event amidst COVID-19 lockdowns.

Fast forward to today, and Frederick County Councilman Mason Carter has introduced a proposal to amend the state law to allow credit card usage for charitable gaming. State lawmakers will discuss the bill in the upcoming legislative session.

While the bill would only apply to Frederick County charities, it would pave the way for others to follow.

It will also influence Maryland’s chances of legalizing iGaming in 2024. If lawmakers reject the idea of charitable iGaming, a regulated online casino industry stands no chance.

Senators show concerns over the issue

Of course, gambling inherently has risks associated with the activity. When done irresponsibly, those risks can compound with credit cards involved.

State Sen. Karen Lewis Young weighed in on the matter leading up to January’s General Assembly session during a Legislative Delegation Forum earlier this month.

“I worked for two major credit card companies – American Express and Capital One – and neither permitted this. And the reason was the risk. There was a high level of risk associated with this form of gambling. People make decisions very spontaneously that can come back and hurt them.”

State Sen. Bill Folden also seems to be skeptical.

“We’re allowing people on football games. You can bet right in the middle of the game. And it’s funny to me, it’s ironic that during these games or during these sporting events, we’re reminding people to be responsible gamblers. If you have a problem, call this number. But feel free to use your credit card to keep putting further in debt.”

Both senators raise valid concerns and illustrate why Maryland responsible gambling (RG) measures must be at the forefront of all efforts, including charity gaming. The Old Line State has one of the most accessible RG programs in the nation, including:

Furthermore, the state continues to bolster its RG efforts after recently receiving $176,000 in grants from the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The NCPG chose Maryland because of its proven commitment to addressing problem gambling and its past successes with fostering what NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte called “dynamic and responsive problem gambling prevention programs.”

Experts project iGaming could bring the state $225 million per year

After a lengthy delay in its launch, Maryland online sportsbooks have now been operational for more than a year. Their first full 12 months of data (December 2022 through November 2023) yielded impressive results:

  • $4.55 billion wagered
  • $536.9 million revenue
  • $40.1 million in state taxes

For reference, November’s $550 million handle outperformed the entire year’s betting volume between the December 2021 retail sports betting launch and the November 2022 mobile launch ($499 million, including $186 million from the first eight days of mobile betting).

That success is the tip of the iceberg, too. It’s begun to parlay increasing discussions of Maryland legalizing online casino gambling in the future, something experts believe could generate more than $900 million in annual revenue. According to those projections, the state would rake in an additional $225 million in taxes.

In recent months, Maryland’s name has come up in discussions of future states to legalize iGaming. Some studies ranked it as the most likely state to pass legislation in 2024, but a new analysis ranked it fourth.

If the idea gains steam, a referendum could make it onto the ballot next November. If not, the discussion will get louder and increase the odds of it happening in 2025.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayMaryland
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of legal, safe, and responsible gambling. He feels fortunate to be able to contribute to the growing betting industry through his writing, primarily using his background in poker, sports, and psychology to do so.

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