Maryland Lawmaker Offers Bill To Allow Casino Operators To Make Political Donations

Written By Phil West on January 19, 2024
Photo of Jon Cardin on a story about his proposed legislation allowing casino operators to make political donations.

A Maryland lawmaker, aiming “to ensure laws exhibit integrity, consistency and transparency throughout the legislative process,” has introduced a bill that would allow casino operators to make contributions to political campaigns. Under Maryland law, state casinos are the only gaming group not allowed to contribute to campaigns.

Del. Jon Cardin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is sponsoring House Bill 132. It received its first committee hearing on Jan. 17.

Sportsbook operators are allowed to make political donations in Maryland

Cardin explained to why legalizing political contributions from casino operators makes sense.

“Right now, there is a law that says that casino license-holders are prohibited from making contributions, but sports wagering and the sportsbook license-holders are permitted to. And in fact, it is just, it’s chocolate and vanilla, it is Pepsi and Coke. They’re both ice cream. They’re both sodas. They should both be treated the exact same way. And there’s no reason why we should have this one licensing entity that should be prohibited from making contributions.”

During the Wednesday bill hearing, committee chair Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary asked Cardin to journey back in time to 2012 when the General Assembly established the prohibition. Cardin noted that, in that era,

“Many considered the casino industry to have a particular propensity for impropriety despite zero consistent evidence outside a few bad apples.”

Del. Eric Ebersole then said, at least to the best of his knowledge, that no other individuals or entities are specifically prohibited from making political contributions in the state.

Legalizing online casinos also on legislative agenda this session

There are six commercial casinos in the state. The proposed legislation comes in a session where gambling is taking on some focus. Sen. Ron L. Watson is proposing to make Maryland online casinos legal. If approved, online casinos could be open for business by July 1, 2025.

The state’s voters need to weigh in first – theoretically, on the November ballot – because legalizing online casino gambling would require a change to the Maryland Constitution.

The current proposed question that would appear on the ballot is:

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

In November 2020, Maryland voters went through a similar process, approving sports betting through a ballot measure that changed the state constitution.

Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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