Maryland Online Casino Proposal Adjusted As Time Runs Short

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Maryland online casino

While a long road still awaits Maryland online casino legislation as the clock winds down, lawmakers continue to tweak the proposals.

The Maryland House Ways & Means Committee advanced a Maryland online casino bill, House Bill 1319 on Wednesday, a day after Delegates heavily amended the legislation during a meeting of the Racing and Gaming Subcommittee. The amendments increased the licenses in the legislation from 12 to up to 30, as well as added stipulations to ensure a diverse and inclusive online casino industry.

Maryland legislation must pass its chamber of origin by March 18, so time is ticking for online casino bills this year. If lawmakers pass a proposal this year, Marylanders will have a say on the issue at the ballot in November.

Changes to Maryland House online casino bill

During initial hearings on the proposal, Delegates were concerned with a lack of plans to make sure the industry expansion meets diversity goals. To help allay those concerns, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, the bill sponsor and chair of the Ways & Means Committee, made Tuesday’s amendments. 

The changes include a tiered license process for the casinos. Maryland’s six casinos must share 5% of online casino revenue with a social equity partner for the first license. For a second license, casinos need to share 33% of online casino revenue with a partner.

Meeting the second threshold also qualifies the casinos for a third license. Online casino taxes would be 55%, or 20% for live dealer games.

New license opportunities in Maryland

During earlier hearings, off-track betting facilities hoped for inclusion in the online casino industry. They were included in MD sports betting law.

In Atterbeary’s amended proposal, four OTBs and two bingo halls are now qualified for a license. The amendment also includes a license for Urban One, a Black-owned media company that is a former minority owner of MGM National Harbor in Oxen Hill.

Additionally, if there are extra licenses unused from the 18 allocated to casinos, they will be open for a bid process. There is also an additional five licenses available in the open bid. The first round of bids would only be open to social equity applicants.

What is a social equity applicant?

A person or group of people would need to meet various criteria for inclusion. 

The applicants must have lived in an economically disadvantaged area for at least five of the past 10 years. Then, they must qualify with one of the following: 

Battle lines clear in Maryland online casino

While four of the six Maryland casinos are for online expansion, two are not. Both Ocean Downs Casino and Racetrack and Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland are against the proposal. 

They expressed concerns about brick-and-mortar revenue losses and impact on local employees. 

Multiple members from casino employee unions were also present at the hearings to voice their worries.

Senate bill still in committee

Sen. Ron Watson’s Senate Bill 603 remains in committee. 

Watson’s bill allocates each of Maryland’s six casinos with two online skins.

The Senate bill taxes online casino at 47%