There is a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that has the potential to change hundreds of lives.
House Bill 1288 would create a pathway for nonviolent criminals to apply and work at Maryland casinos, an option that hasn’t been open to them in the past. It’s meant as a way to use the boon of expanded gambling in the state to help those who have served their time for crimes and are looking to take a major step toward a new life after prison.
HB 1288 unanimously passed the House and now sits in a Senate committee.
HB 1288 passes House on 131-0 vote
Maryland has six retail casinos. Maryland online casinos are still prohibited. Unfortunately, that also includes online poker. A bill to put the question to voters in 2024 has been re-introduced this session of the Maryland General Assembly.
As outlined on the Maryland General Assembly website, the synopsis of HB 1288 is as follows:
“Altering the circumstances under which the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission is required to disqualify an applicant who committed a crime involving moral turpitude from holding a video lottery employee license.”
State Delegate Nick Charles sponsors the bill.
HB 1288 waltzed through the Maryland House of Representatives and its committees. Its first reading was Feb. 26, after which it was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. On March 6, after amendments were adopted by members of the committee, it passed its second reading on the House floor. After a third reading, HB 1288 passed unanimously with a 131-0 vote. Ten representatives abstained or were not present for the vote.
HB 1288 still needs to pass two more readings before full Senate vote
After passing the House, HB 1288 was sent to the Maryland Senate. After a first reading, the measure was sent to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee for debate and amendments.
Once it passes committees, the bill will have to pass second and third readings before the entire Senate votes on it.
If it passes, an amended bill would go back to the House for a final vote on the changes. If there are no changes in the Seante, the measure would go directly to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk.
With its success so far, it seems likely that HB1288 will become law soon.
HB 1288 could help end revolving door of criminality
The main reason for incarcerating citizens who commit crimes is for them to serve a sentence in order to repay their debt to society. While locked up in prison, these inmates go through all sorts of programs to better themselves mentally, emotionally and physically. In addition to bettering themselves individually, the time spent in prisons by inmates is supposed to prepare them for their reintegration into society after their sentence has passed.
Unfortunately, across this country, many prisons and criminal justice systems have come up horribly short of those goals. Their failures leave many inmates incapable of rejoining society in a positive manner, which usually leads them right back into the criminal justice system. They lack the skills or the ability to make a new life for themselves.
This is only heightened by the fact that prisons make more money when the house more inmates. It’s a system built to be more profitable for prisons when more prisoners are kept locked up.
House Bill 1288 could help fix that, Charles told WTOP News.
“These are opportunities that help create a change within our community.”
‘This is a great opportunity for them to get that second chance’
If HB 1288 becomes law, these nonviolent offenders will have a pathway toward employment that will not disqualify them simply based on their past criminal history. It would allow previously incarcerated people to get back on their feet thanks to the stability and financial freedom that employment brings, Charles said.
“For folks who have misdemeanors, nonviolent crimes, you know, this is a big deal. … It addresses that issue for folks who had these addictions before, they’ve gone through the drug courts, they changed their lives around and now they’re looking for that second chance. So, this is a great opportunity for them to get that second chance.”
Charles said he’s excited to play a role in changing lives.
“The goal is for everybody to be re-acclimated in society and be productive citizens. This is a great opportunity. And I’m happy to be a part of it.”