Maryland Online Casino Bill Passes House, Faces Dim Hopes Ahead

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Maryland online casino

Maryland online casino legislation advanced through the House this weekend and beat a crucial deadline, but it faces long odds in the Senate

The Maryland House sent its online casino bill, HB 1319, to the Senate with a 92-43 vote Saturday ahead of Monday’s deadline for legislation to pass its chamber of origin. Now, however, the legislation meets a Senate that did not act on a similar bill, with leadership vocally opposed to the Maryland online casino issue.

The Maryland legislative session ends April 8. Because online casino legalization requires a constitutional amendment, Senate passage requires a three-fifths majority. If passed, the question would then go to Maryland voters in November.

Could a referendum pass in Maryland? 

Sen. Ron Watson was set to lead the online gambling issue prior to the session. His bills did not move in the Senate following a committee hearing

Watson told LSR Monday that the enacting bill from the House is unlikely to pass, but he hopes the question could still end up on November’s ballot. 

“The general consensus at this point is that the Senate passed a balanced budget with no tax increases. However, there is still uncertainty for subsequent years,” Watson said. “While I strongly support the passage of the iGaming bill to capture the critical and untapped revenue that it can generate, I hope that, at a minimum, both houses will pass the referendum.”

Maryland online casino bill passes House

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary authored the House bill that creates up to 30 online casino licenses in Maryland. Atterbeary guided the legislation through the Ways & Means Committee she chairs last week.

During Saturday’s floor session, legislators attempted to add several amendments to derail the proposal. There was no debate on the third reading and final vote.

Lawmakers rejected the proposed amendments, which included requirements to sign up and make deposits in-person.

Maryland online casino proposal

Atterbeary’s legislation gives Maryland’s six casinos up to three online gambling licenses. For the first license, the casinos must share 5% of revenue with a social equity applicant partner which meets a set of criteria laid out during last week’s House committee meeting.

The casinos can secure a second license by sharing 33% of revenue with a partner. Meeting that requirement also gives the casinos an option for a bonus third license.

Four off-track betting facilities, two bingo halls and the Black-owned media company Urban One also qualify for licenses. Five additional licenses, as well as any unused licenses from the 18 allocated to the casinos, will be up for open bid.

Maryland online casino financials

The legislation sets up a tax rate of 55% on online gambling revenue, and 20% on revenue from live dealer games.

Licensees would pay a $1 million fee for an initial five-year license.

Despite the Senate opposition, House legislators are adamant about adding a sustainable stream of revenue for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund. Lawmakers estimate online gambling could generate up to $900 million annually for the state.

Casino industry opposition in Maryland

During committee hearings last month, two of the state’s six casinos came out against the online gambling expansion.

Representatives from both Ocean Downs Casino and Racetrack and Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland expressed concerns about brick-and-mortar casino revenue losses and effects on local employees. Multiple members of casino employee unions also spoke against the issue during the hearings.

Earlier this month, the Maryland Retailers Association came out against the bill and released a poll it commissioned that found 55% of Marylanders are against online casino legalization.