Online Casino Bill Officially Dies On Last Day Of Legislative Session

Written By Steve Schult on April 10, 2024
The Maryland Senate on the final day of the 2024 legislative session.

Any hopes of gambling expansion in the Old Line State were dashed Monday evening.

A bill that would’ve legalized Maryland online casinos passed the House of Delegates just ahead of the mid-March crossover deadline.

Then, the bill was referred to the Senate Taxes Committee. However, the committee only discussed the bill once and members never held a vote on it.

As a result, the committee didn’t send HB 1319 to the floor. The Maryland Senate wrapped up the 2024 legislative session Monday without voting on the bill.

Best case becomes 2026 for online casino bills

Since gambling expansion requires an amendment to the state constitution, online casino legislation will require a ballot initiative. In other words, Maryland voters will eventually have the final say.

Sen. Ron Watson, the sponsor of a Senate bill to legalize online casinos, told PlayMaryland’s sister site, Legal Sports Report, that it will be at least two years until voters have that chance.

“The unfortunate thing is that we did not pass the referendum,” Watson said. “Without that referendum, no bill could have a chance. Our next opportunity will not be until 2026, so I think this will be on hold for a while.”

Watson filed SB 565 and SB 603. The first established a ballot initiative question for the voters. The second would establish certain guidelines around a legal online casino industry if voters passed it.

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary sponsored the House’s legislation. But both bills ran into the same roadblock.

Balanced budget appears to be the cause of delay

In both chambers, opponents of online casinos appeared at committee hearings to testify against the expansion. Opponents mostly raised concerns about an increase in problem gambling rates and the destruction of brick-and-mortar jobs.

But the committee didn’t stall on the bill because of those worries. Instead, they looked at the state’s balanced budget and decided the added tax revenue wasn’t needed.

Thus, lawmakers didn’t feel a sense of urgency to move the legislation forward.

On the other hand, the state passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future during the 2021 session. The initiative vows to increase education funding by $3.8 billion annually for the next decade.

The legislature appropriated necessary funds through 2028, but the initiative runs through 2032. Stated differently, financial issues are on the horizon.

The online casino legislation in both houses pledged to use tax revenue from the new industry for education funding.

Photo by AP Photo / Brian Witte
Steve Schult Avatar
Written by
Steve Schult

Steve Schult has covered the gambling world for the last decade. With stints as a staff writer for the World Series of Poker and Bluff Magazine, as well as the online content manager for Card Player Media, the New York native covered high-stakes poker tournaments and the overall casino industry. He’ll shift most of his focus to the Virginia, Maryland and Florida markets as a managing editor for Catena Media.

View all posts by Steve Schult
Privacy Policy