Maryland Online Casino Referendum Fails On Final Day Of Session

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Maryland online casino

Legalizing Maryland online casino gambling will have to wait until at least 2026 after a referendum failed to pass the General Assembly before lawmakers adjourned Monday.

With online casino bills left out of state budget talks, Sen. Ron Watson was hopeful lawmakers could still pass a referendum. Legalizing online casino gambling requires a constitutional amendment and a referendum would have let voters decide the issue in November.

“The unfortunate thing is that we did not pass the referendum,” Watson told LSR on Monday. “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.”

Maryland online casino hurdles

Watson, who has pushed for expanded online gambling in his chamber, pinpointed two distinct hurdles to online casino legislation in the Maryland Senate: problem gambling and cannibalization of brick-and-mortar casinos.

In February, two of Maryland’s six casinos came out against expanded online gambling in the state.

Ocean Downs Casino and Racetrack and Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland cited fears of lost revenue if online casino gaming became legal.

Gathering problem gambling data

Watson mentioned Maryland sports betting as a way to learn how to manage problem gambling effectively. With MD sports betting apps launching more than a year ago, he admitted there was plenty still to learn.

“There is still a lot of data to be captured (from sports betting) to see how we deal with problem gaming,” Watson said.

Online MD sportsbooks launched in November 2022.

Next steps for Maryland online casino

Despite resistance from two casinos and other industry groups, House Bill 1319, passed the Maryland House last month. Two Senate bills, Senate Bill 565 and Senate Bill 603, did not move following committee hearings in February.

Since legalizing online casino gaming requires a constitutional amendment, the soonest Maryland voters could potentially decide on the issue will be the next statewide election in November 2026.

“I think we had a good bill,” Watson said. “I think we have a really good baseline, so there should be little to do to move it forward other than the will of the House and the Senate to make it happen.”