Maryland legislators are examining the potential effects of legalizing online casino on the state, with a likely legislative push coming in 2024.
With Sen. Ron Watson planning to champion Maryland online casino legislation in January, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency presented a study to lawmakers this month on the potential effects of the industry. The study found Maryland online casinos could generate more than $900 million in operator revenue and contribute up to $300 million in taxes to Maryland once mature in 2029, which could help close an expected budget deficit.
“Our state has a decision to make,” Watson told LSR this week. “The outlook for the state suggests revenues are forecast to grow 3.5%, and ongoing spending is projected at 5% from 2025 – 2029. In short, we have a structural deficit at the state level. This is a gap we must close, and iGaming can help.”
Where does Maryland online casino go now?
Watson said the study, conducted by The Innovation Group, will be sent to the Joint Committee Chairs of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Budget & Tax Committee. He expects a bill to emerge from the committees.
The Senator said he will continue to help craft the legislation “that will allow us to tap into this new and important revenue stream.” Additionally, Watson said MGM Resorts will support the issue. MGM operates the MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino in Oxen Hill, just outside Washington, DC.
Should Gov. Wes Moore sign an online casino bill, Attorney General Anthony Brown already said it would still need voter approval in 2024 because it is another expansion of gaming in Maryland.
Could Maryland online casinos help problem gamblers?
Watson said many opponents of the gaming expansion are concerned with problem gaming.
He said casinos in the state have discussed the difficulty of monitoring bettors in-person. The expansion could provide more tools and better reach bettors for support, he said.
Watson said online gaming can help monitor betting amounts and offer the ability to freeze accounts. At-risk individuals could then also be contacted for real-time support, he said.
Sports betting status in Maryland
Voters approved Maryland sports betting at the polls in 2020, with lawmakers passing enacting bills in 2021. In-person sports betting began in December 2021, while online sportsbooks launched in November 2022.
Since the first sportsbook opened, the industry has taken $4.5 billion in wagers, generating $562.8 million in sports betting revenue. The state has brought in $43.1 million in taxes.
The state has awarded 13 in-person sportsbook licenses and 12 for online operators.