iGaming Bill In Maryland Senate Appears Dead, Sponsor Says

Written By Dan Holmes on March 14, 2024
A picture of a dead end for a story about how the Maryland Senate killed an online casino bill.

While one bill may be galvanizing a path toward legal online casino gaming in Maryland, another appears its run is over.

Legislators in both chambers filed Maryland online casino legislation this year. Sen. Ron Watson filed SB 565 and SB 603, while Del. Vanessa Atterbeary submitted HB 1319.

The House Ways and Means Committee sent Atterbeary’s bill to the floor for a vote. However, it appears the Senate is killing Watson’s proposals.

Senate believes there’s no need for extra revenue

Watson told Bonus.com, a sister site of PlayMaryland, that the Senate isn’t going to move forward with his companion bills.

Not because of anything specifically wrong with the legislation. Rather, since the budget is submitted and balanced, there is no need for additional tax revenue.

“I do not believe the Senate version of the iGaming Bill or the referendum will move forward at this time,” Watson said. “The general consensus of the Senate is that a balanced budget has been developed and submitted. And, as such, no new taxes are required, nor are they ready to entertain this new revenue stream.”

Maryland law requires the citizens of this state to approve an expansion of gambling, which is what the addition of online casinos and online poker would do.

Thus, Watson filed two bills. One outlining the rules and regulations of the industry. The other two establish the exact phrasing of the question on the ballot.

HB 1319 would also require a ballot initiative. But the lower chamber appears more eager to generate extra tax revenue.

According to testimony in the House of Delegates, the state could benefit from as much as $300 million in tax revenue annually from regulated online casino/poker activity.

A ballot proposal may take place this November, and if voters approve the amendment to state gambling laws to permit expansion for online casinos and poker, any legislation could go forward in the 2025 sessions. That means, at best, Maryland may see online casinos in mid-to-late- 2025.

Senate’s opinions about House bill are still unknown

The Atterbeary bill must be sent to the Senate by March 18. The Senate must approve it by April 8, the date when the state legislature adjourns. Watson is optimistic about the future but doesn’t know what immediate action the Senate will take.

“We will see what action the Senate takes once the bill comes over,” Watson told Bonus.com. “In any case, whether or not the bill passes this year, we have a framework upon which to build upon. iGaming is the future and is the next logical step in modernizing and maximizing casino revenue.”

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes writes about sports betting, sports media, casino and sports betting legislative matters for several of the Play sites, including PlayMaryland, PlayMichigan and PlayMassachusetts. He's the author of three books, and previously reported for Major League Baseball, as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters.

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