Maryland iGaming Bill Set for House Vote, Senate Leaders Maintain Opposition

Posted on: March 14, 2024, 10:03h. 

Last updated on: March 14, 2024, 11:04h.

Maryland iGaming legislation passed the House Ways and Means Committee by a 15-7 vote on Wednesday.

Maryland iGaming online casino
Maryland Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D) is campaigning to bring iGaming to the state. Her online casino bill cleared a House committee this week in Annapolis. (Image: The Daily Record)

The online casino gaming statute now moves to the full House floor. That’s where it will need to be voted on and passed to the Senate before the state General Assembly’s “Crossover” day on Monday, March 18. The state’s 2024 legislative session is to run through April 8.

House Bill 1319 comes from Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. The measure seeks to allow the state’s six brick-and-mortar casinos to each run up to three iGaming platforms.

Maryland’s four off-track betting parlors and two bingo facilities currently possess sports betting licenses, and would qualify for an online casino skin. Publicly traded media conglomerate Urban One, which owned a stake in MGM National Harbor before selling it to pursue a casino development in Richmond, would also receive an iGaming opportunity. Another five online casino licenses would be put up for a competitive bid.

Voters have the final say on gaming expansion matters. If HB 1319 passes the General Assembly and is signed by Gov. Wes Moore (D), a statewide ballot referendum would ask voters to amend the Maryland Constitution to permit online casino gambling.

Social Equity Provisions 

Atterbeary’s bill includes many elements to promote inclusion and deliver social equity.

The casinos would be required to share a minimum of 5% of their online win with a “social equity applicant partner.” To obtain privileges for two additional iGaming skins, casinos must agree to share at least a third of the online gaming income with their social equity applicant partner.

The qualifying terms for a social equity applicant partner would be defined by the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs. The legislation as written mandates that those individuals not have a net worth above a to-be-determined amount set by the office.

Each iGaming license would cost $1 million, and gross revenue would be subject to a to-be-determined tax. The state’s financial windfall from authorizing iGaming would go to the Maryland Blueprint, an early childhood, elementary and secondary education program.

Senate No-Go

Senate leaders say Atterbeary and other House lawmakers supportive of the iGaming bill are wasting their time.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) has repeatedly said that gaming expansion measures won’t be considered in his chamber this year. State Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) agrees that 2024 isn’t the year to consider widening the state’s gaming industry.

Guzzone’s opposition is important because he chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, where Sen. Ron Watson’s (D-Prince George) Senate Bill 603 landed in January. Watson’s iGaming measure has since sat unconsidered in the committee.

Watson’s bill sought to allow the six casinos to each manage up to two iGaming platforms. Licenses would also cost $1 million and gross revenue would be taxed at 47%.

If Atterbeary’s iGaming bill is voted on and passed by the House, the legislation would presumably be allocated to Guzzone’s Budget and Taxation Committee. She hopes with the tax benefit numbers presented that Guzzone might change his stance.

I think it’s a different story when things are in front of you and actually on the table and are passed,” Atterbeary told Maryland Matters. “We made it very clear that our members are interested in doing something for the Blueprint. We’re going to send over what we think is the right thing to do.”

iGaming is legal in seven states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.