Maryland Legislators Voice Concerns For Upcoming Online Casino Bill

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Maryland online casino

A familiar state-level issue is reappearing as Maryland online casino discussions begin. 

During a House Ways & Means Committee hearing on an online casino study Thursday, multiple lawmakers raised concerns women- and minority-owned businesses would be left out of the industry.

Chair Del. Vanessa Atterbeary reminded the lawmakers no bill was being discussed; however, Sen. Ron Watson plans to introduce legislation soon and was in attendance at the meeting. Maryland is a primary focus for national iGaming proponents this year.

It took nearly two years for online Maryland sports betting to launch after receiving the governor’s signature in 2021, with much of it delayed because of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) study.

Maryland online casino study

The Innovation Group was charged with gathering information on what iGaming in Maryland might look like. That includes revenue projections and how other states implemented enacting legislation.

TIG EVP Brian Wyman said the industry could generate up to $921.1 million in revenue by 2031. That potentially could come at a loss of approximately $221.1 million by brick-and-mortar casinos.

“This $218.5 million dollars of brick-and-mortar GGR loss is approximately 24.2% of expected 2029 iGaming revenues of $904.9 million, implying approximately 75.8% of iGaming revenue, or $686.3 million, is incremental to the overall gaming market,” the study reads.

TIG’s other main recommendations include: 

DEI concerns in Maryland

Del. Jheanelle Wilkins raised concerns the study did not include any DEI information. Wilkins and other lawmakers were also concerned with potential job losses at physical casinos and increases in problem gambling.

Atterbeary reminded the committee a bill could address those policy points and that they were not in the scope of the study. Wyman said many of the significant players in the industry are large, publicly owned companies.

During the sports betting legislative process, lawmakers added several stipulations to include both women- and minority-owned businesses, and to benefit historically Black colleges and universities. The legislation also set up the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which was charged with ensuring an inclusive industry.

SWARC study inconclusive

A significant reason for the long road to sports betting was a SWARC disparity study. The study was meant to determine if SWARC could use additional efforts to diversify the industry. 

Ultimately, SWARC determined it could not use race- or gender-conscious criteria to award licenses.

Instead, the commission required that 5% of an applicant’s ownership must have a net worth of less than $1.847 million.

Jobs concern in Maryland

Multiple lawmakers also expressed concerns about job loss at local casinos.

That came on the heels of an Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce study that found iGaming could result in a $65 million income decline. The study said its possible a loss of 2,700 jobs accompanies the online industry.

Wyman said iGaming could create some jobs, including potentially requiring live dealer studios to be located in Maryland.

Online casino bill coming

Watson confirmed with LSR last week his iGaming bill will drop this month. Atterbeary is a potential House sponsor.

LSR reviewed a draft of Watson’s bill, which includes: 

Watson’s bill, if signed by Gov. Wes Moore, would need voter approval in November.

“Our state has a decision to make,” Watson said last fall. “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.”