MD iGaming Bill Adds Amendment To Support Displaced Casino Employees

Written By Matthew Bain on March 15, 2024
Slots at MGM National Harbor for story on MD iGaming bill adding amendment to help displaced casino employees

On Friday, the bill that would legalize online casinos in Maryland added a key amendment ahead of its crucial discussion on the House floor on Saturday.

The amendment, put forth by bill sponsor Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, creates a Video Lottery Employee Displacement Fund designed to support employees at facilities with VLTs (the state’s six casinos) that are displaced as a result of implementing online casinos in Maryland.

Specifically, the fund, housed in the Department of Labor, would be earmarked for:

  • “Grants to former video lottery facility employees displaced by the implementation of internet gaming to offset any reduction in the take home pay of the former employees”
  • Supplementing “unemployment insurance payments received by former video lottery facility employees displaced by the implementation of internet gaming”

Could this amendment bring all six casinos on board?

In Maryland, video lottery terminals are the same as slot machines, and they are housed at the state’s six casinos. Four of those casinos — MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe Baltimore, Hollywood Casino Perryville, and Rocky Gap Casinohad already expressed support for the bill, House Bill 1319, even before this amendment.

Two of the casinos — Live! Casino and Ocean Downshave opposed the bill, largely due to concerns about legal online casinos eating away at their customer bases and, thus, putting brick-and-mortar jobs at risk. The validity of these concerns has been called into question by recent studies analyzing whether online casinos actually cannibalize retail customer bases.

Saturday is show time for HB 1319

The amendment was approved by the House, as well as the bill’s favorable recommendation by the House Ways and Means Committee. HB 1319 was special ordered by Del. Ryan Nawrocki to be discussed during the next House floor session on Saturday.

“Given the complexity of the bill, I had a discussion with the good Chair (Del. Atterbeary) beforehand, and also for possible amendments, I ask if we could special order this bill to the appropriate time tomorrow,” Del. Nawrocki said.

That request was approved, and HB 1319 will be discussed during Saturday’s first session.

March 18 deadline looms large

All House bills must be passed and sent to the Senate by Monday, March 18, in order to stay alive. That means Saturday’s discussion of HB 1319 will be absolutely critical in determining if iGaming stands a chance of being legalized in the current legislative session.

HB 1319 was also amended this week by the House Racing and Gaming Subcommittee to bump the number of operator licenses up from 12 to 30, require land-based casino partners to give 5% of their iGaming revenue share to a social equity applicant partner, and ban the use of credit cards for iGaming.

Photo by AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain is currently the Content Manager at Catena Media's national online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the News Content Manager at Catena Media, overseeing news content for the network's highest-priority regional sites. Maryland could legalize iGaming in 2024, so PlayMaryland was one of his priority sites. Prior to joining Catena Media in 2022, Matthew won 10 statewide and national journalism awards during six years as a reporter and editor for the USA TODAY Network. Matthew's work primarily appeared in the Des Moines Register, but he was also featured in the Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and USA TODAY. Throughout his career, Matthew's bylines have also appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seattle Times, and Orange County Register.

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