Expert: 50/50 That Maryland Online Casinos Legalized Soon

Written By T.J. McBride on September 14, 2023
Maryland could get online casinos soon.

Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly failed to pass an online casino bill in the last legislative session. Despite that, there is optimism that legislation will pass next year, which would allow residents to vote on the measure in November 2024.

While the chances of passing an online casino bill are not particularly favorable, the odds still put Maryland at the front of the pack for states expected to legalize online casino gambling in the near future.

There are some roadblocks to overcome, but the appetite for expanded gambling in The Old Line State appears to be growing.

Expert: 50/50 chance Maryland adds online casinos

As with most states, Maryland online casinos consist of only sweepstakes and social casinos. Neither involves real money, though prizes won can be converted into real dollars in some circumstances.

Becca Giden, director of policy for the gambling consulting firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, thinks Maryland has the best shot at becoming the next state to offer online casino gambling.

“I would comfortably seat Maryland there. Maryland ticks a lot of our ‘momentum-increasing characteristics’ boxes.”

Those boxes Giden is referring to are:

  • Having a retail casino market that features national brands
  • A legislature and voting body that is in support of expanded gambling and online casino gaming
  • A lack of stakeholders and groups actively fighting against expanded gambling

Despite her optimism, the chances that legislation is passed are not has high as online casino advocates would like. Giden puts those odds around 50%.

“My optimism for even the best-chance state to legalize in 2024 currently tops out at about 50%. It’s just plain difficult generally, but it’s been especially tough in the last two-ish years.”

State conducting feasibility study on online casinos

Outside of Giden’s three boxes, there is a fourth reason to believe Maryland could soon expand its wagering options. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency is conducting a study to identify potential benefits and repercussions of adding online casino gambling.

There are a few main goals regulators and lawmakers hope the study will shed light on:

  • Establish an estimate for the size of a Maryland online casino market
  • Figure out the possible financial impact on retail casinos
  • How much online casinos could add to problem gambling in the state
  • How states with legalized online casino gambling have faired

Findings from the study are expected to be provided to the Maryland General Assembly no later than Nov. 15.

Giden says the study being done is a strong indicator for future legislative approval.

“I’ve only seen a few of these ‘a proposal to expand gambling’ studies, and I have yet to see one that says ‘don’t bother.’”

Minority inclusion key to an online casino bill passing

One thing is crystal clear. Without a minority inclusion plan, online casino gambling legislation will not pass.

For state Sen. Ron Watson, Maryland sports betting legislation was a “dismal failure” for minorities. Many of the minority operators received Class B licenses, which were not awarded until after the first wave of sportsbooks took most of the market. That left them behind the eight-ball from the start.

“It took so long to roll out the Class B licenses and the brick-and-mortar casinos had such a head start, we missed that curve. The people who were interested in sports betting have already signed up, so now there’s nobody for this little entity to sign up.”

Before moving forward with online casino gambling, Watson wants to see a concrete plan in place that gives minorities a fair shot in the new marketplace. Watson said a solid minority inclusion plan would also help push the legislation over the finish line.

“Maryland has the biggest legislative black caucus in the country. Very loud, very vocal, and if they get behind stuff, we can move things pretty quickly.”

Watson is a co-sponsor of last session’s Internet Gaming Authorization and Implementation Act, known as Senate Bill 267. He still has a high level of confidence that Maryland can get the bill passed in 2024.

“I’m very confident that we’ll have something that we can pass by next year. We have plenty of time to work it out. In some cases like this, we may form a summer study group to hammer out the details, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have something next year ready to roll.”

Gaming expert confident state will add online casinos

During an earnings call with Rush Street Interactive, Chief Executive Officer Richard Schwartz spoke about online casino gambling in Maryland. Schwartz noted that an important governmental figure in Maryland has said that online casino gambling is already in a strong position for 2024.

According to Schwartz, Maryland feels it needs a new stream of tax dollars. Online casino gambling fits the bill.

“Notably, a prominent legislative member in the state has expressed optimism about the potential for passage of an iGaming bill when the Legislature reconvenes in January. In his remarks, the legislator emphasized the state’s need for new revenue streams and recognized the significance that online casinos could represent as a valuable third leg of the stool, along with existing online sports betting and traditional land-based casino markets.”

Those remarks paired with Watson’s confidence in passing Senate Bill 267 and a study being conducted on the possible impact of online casino gambling are elevating hopes that this bill will be passed. If the Maryland General Assembly pushes the bill through, it will end up on the November ballot in 2024.

Maryland voters have the final say

If the online casino bill makes it onto the November ballot in the form of a voter referendum, the question that will be posed to voters will be this:

“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?”

If the bill reaches that point, it will be up to Maryland voters to decide if online casino gambling is good for the state. They overwhelmingly approved sports betting in 2020.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayMaryland
T.J. McBride Avatar
Written by
T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

View all posts by T.J. McBride
Privacy Policy