One Maryland lawmaker is intent on bringing a vote on online casinos in the state in 2024.
Maryland State Sen. Ron Watson, a Democrat representing District 23, has written a draft bill he says he will introduce in the 2024 legislative session regarding online gambling, per reporting from Vixio.
Increased tax rate, $1 million license fee in proposed Maryland online casinos bill
Last session, the state failed to vote on a bill that would have legalized online casinos in Maryland. This new bill from Watson would reportedly tax operators at 46%, a hefty increase over the proposed 15% in the previous bill. The next Maryland state legislative session commences Jan. 10, 2024.
According to Vixio, Watson’s legislation calls for a $1 million license fee, for a term of four years. Each operator can have up to two online casino gambling skins. Reportedly, House Ways and Means Committee Chair and State Representative Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat, has been approached to become a co-sponsor.
Earlier in 2023, Watson co-sponsored Maryland Senate Bill 267, which never reached a full vote in that chamber.
If Maryland passed a bill on iGaming, it would become the eighth state with legalized online casinos. Other states in the region with legal online casinos include neighbors of Maryland: Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. At some point in 2024, Rhode Island will launch the newest market with online casino gaming. In iGaming states, typically consumers can play slot games and casino table games, and in some cases online poker.
So … will this bill actually pass?
Earlier in 2023 at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer and Retail Conference, BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt identified Maryland as a possible candidate for iGaming legislation in 2024. Opponents of online casinos have cited potential negative impacts on retail casinos and sports betting, as well as cannibalization of online lottery and retail lottery sales.
The recently released report on the potential of expanded online gambling in Maryland, however, projected minimal negative impact on other gaming industries in the state — while also adding $225 million in annual taxes.
Still, one industry watchdog recently knocked Maryland down from the most likely state to legalize online casinos in 2024 to the fourth-most likely, behind New Hampshire, New York, and Iowa.
Yes, politics will play a role in online casino legislation
Governor Wes Moore (D) will enter his second full year in office in 2024, but he has yet to indicate whether he supports online casino wagering in his state. Support from the governor could bolster Watson’s legislation.
A pair of local politicians voiced hesitation in a recent Baltimore Sun story.
“I think we really need to slow down and take a good look at this,” said Maryland State Delegate Steve Johnson, a Democrat from District 34A in Hartford County.
Added State Senator Clarence Lam, who represents the 12th District: “(Expanded online gambling) will probably lead to more Marylanders experiencing problem gambling, as well as a reduction in revenue at our casinos.”
The year 2024 will see a hotly contested presidential election, which could impact whether legislators in Maryland stick out their necks to support an iGaming bill. Some opponents are fundamentally against online casinos because of a concern over an increase in gambling addiction. It’s also likely that a handful of lawmakers will be swayed by lobbying from constituents in their districts where land-based casinos exist. There could possibly be a backlash from the legalization of sports betting in Maryland, with its associated barrage of betting advertisements.
The Sun story referenced the state’s own findings that online betting could pose heightened risks for problem gambling as opposed to land-based casino gambling:
“Feedback provided by Maryland’s problem gambling center in the report to the state gambling agency detailed that most studies have found online gambling to result in more issues than in-casino wagering,” the story read. “The report stated the ‘convenience factor of online gambling cannot be overlooked as a reliable predictor of problem gambling.’”