This might sound insane, but it is true.
There is a URL on the back of just under 800K Maryland vehicle license plates that links back not to anything government related, but instead to a website promoting online casinos in the Philippines, which are unregulated and illegal for Maryland bettors.
Online casinos are not legal in Maryland, while online sports betting in MD is. The promoted website is not part of the legal industry in the state.
This seems virtually impossible. How could a government issued license plate on 798,000 cars display such a link? That is the question many are looking to answer as the state of Maryland looks for ways to solve this riddle no one ever expected.
Let’s get into the details.
How did Maryland license plates promote illegal offshore casino website?
First, the license plates were originally created to commemorate the War of 1812 and were designed by the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.
Star-Spangled 200 Inc. – the namesake used for the URL in question — was a nonprofit company that was connected to that commission. The commission’s original goal was to raise money for Bicentennial events.
The plates themselves look harmless at first glance. They are simple overall with all the typical American pops of color: some stripes, some stars, some fireworks bursting in the air. At the bottom is the Star Spangled 200 URL. Or it was.
At one time, and through a few different domain name owners, that link had been connected to some sort of governmental agency or commission. But, at some point in the last year, it is pulling people to this site promoting Filipino online casinos.
The Maryland Department of Transportation put out a statement about this issue:
“The website printed on the plates is not owned by the Motor Vehicle Administration. The plates’ design and content originated from the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission created in 2007,” John M. Lazarou, Director of Media Relations for the Maryland Department of Transportation, told Gizmodo. “Star-Spangled 200, Inc. is the nonprofit entity affiliated with the Commission that led the efforts to raise funds for bicentennial projects and events. The MVA does not endorse the views or content on the current website using that URL.”
Beyond those details, not much is known. Despite that, those tasked with fixing this problem are working toward a solution, but that is no easy task.
Maryland working to fix license plate URL issue
While the state of Maryland clearly wants to find a solution to this problem, that might be easier said than done. Getting the plates off the street is no easy task.
In lieu of that, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration told WBALTV11 in Baltimore that the next step is working with their IT department to find options to fix this. The only issue with trying to solve this problem from the URL side of things is that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has to find a way to get back in control of that URL.
There are still many cans of worms to open and work through before drivers in Maryland are no longer unknowingly advertising for an offshore Filipino online casino, but the Department of Transportation is aware of the issue and working toward finding a solution.
The only questions left is how long might that take and how did this URL end up redirecting people to this offshore online casino? While time will tell how long it will take until the problem is solved, the identity of who or what company did this might never be known.