After Legislative Failure, MD Can’t Legalize Online Casinos Until At Least 2026

Written By Cheryl Coward on April 22, 2024 - Last Updated on April 23, 2024
A picture of a finish line for a story about how 2026 is the earliest Maryland can legalize online casinos

Now that all efforts by lawmakers to expand gambling in Maryland this year have failed, hopes turn to the next legislative session.

Earlier this month, a House-passed online casino bill died in the Senate Taxes Committee. Introduced by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, House Bill 1319 was among several gambling measures that did not make it out of the General Assembly. That includes two other bills aimed at legalizing iGaming in the state.

Because online casino legalization requires voter approval, the soonest it could become legal in the Old Line State is now 2026.

Constitutional amendment referendums can only be voted on in general elections

While Maryland online casinos remain illegal, Marylanders can participate for fun in sweepstakes and social casinos.

Sen. Ron Watson, who sponsored the other two iGaming bills, said it will be another two years before online casinos could become legal in Maryland. Gambling expansion requires amending the state constitution, which can only happen via a voter referendum.

“The unfortunate thing is that we did not pass the referendum. 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’s two measures included a bill that would have authorized a voter referendum and another that would have provided the legal framework for online casinos.

Residents vote on constitutional amendments during general election years. After this year, the next general election in Maryland is in November 2026. Any bill that amends the Maryland Constitution takes a three-fifths majority in the General Assembly before it goes to voters.

Funding for Blueprint for Maryland’s Future a deciding factor

Foes of legalizing online casinos in Maryland expressed concerns that iGaming would increase problem gambling and lead to a decline in jobs at retail casinos. They also said the state doesn’t even need the extra tax revenue.

Atterbeary scoffed at the idea the state does not need more revenue. She pointed to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The wide-ranging program, meant to overhaul pre-K through 12 public education in the state, was passed in 2021 and is currently on rocky terrain. School districts are having trouble implementing many aspects of the Blueprint and financial problems are on the horizon.

A recent Washington Post article outlined the current issues with the Blueprint program. It reported that every school district in the state is having trouble implementing it. Many of the issues concern finances. The state has earmarked funds through 2028, but the program is set to run through 2032.

For Atterbeary and proponents of online casinos, tax revenue from a legal market in Maryland would help solve any future Blueprint funding issues.

In the meantime, politicians in favor of iGaming have several months to recalibrate their strategy.

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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a contributor for PlayMaryland with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website as a result of that passion. She has extensive experience covering gambling and sports betting in California.

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