Online Casinos Left Out Of Maryland Budget

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A video poker machine displays an out of service message at a casino. David Becker/Getty Images/AFP

Budget negotiations by Maryland lawmakers are now over. Online casinos were left out, which ultimately kills any hope for them to be approved this year. In short, online casino revenue was not included in the budget.

This development does not come as a surprise. Although the Maryland House approved a bill (HB1319) that would allow online casinos and even included them in their budget plan, Senate leaders said all along they wouldn’t consider allowing online casinos during their budget talks.

For online casinos to become a reality this year, lawmakers must now advance just the referendum, placing the question of legalization before voters in November. This allows legislators to return next year to work out the implementation details next year, instead of waiting until the 2026 general election.

One Senator Thinks There Is No Hope

According to Senator Ron Watson, hope is gone. He says there’s no chance voters will see a referendum this year.  “Neither iGaming nor the referendum will move forward this session,” Watson told US Bets 

Watson sponsored one of the two bills that would have made mobile casino apps regulated in Maryland. The Senate never passed his bill, Senate Bill 603. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary proposed House Bill 1319, which the House passed but the Senate stalled. Atterbeary has been emphasizing the need to regulate the current online gambling market in Maryland, arguing for consumer safeguards and the retention of gambling dollars within Maryland.

Casinos Concerned About Job Losses

So what’s the hangup? 

In addition to labor unions strongly opposing the idea of online casinos, the Senate does not see an urgent need for educational funding (where some of the money would be allocated). On top of that, some casinos (namely Maryland Live! and Ocean Downs Casino) have expressed concerns about job displacement due to the proposed bill(s). 

But according to a report by “Point Spreads”, online gaming is not merely a trend, but a flourishing industry that complements traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. Online betting often serves as an introduction for players to the casino world, encouraging them to eventually visit physical casinos.

A study by Eilers & Krejcik revealed that online casinos enhance the revenue of brick-and-mortar casinos by an average of 2.4%. Matt Kaufman, the Managing Director at Eilers & Krejcik, underscored the pivotal role of online casinos in counterbalancing the downturns in the land-based casino market.

What’s Next for the Online Casino Push in Maryland?

If the referendum advances, there will be a vote in November, but that seems highly unlikely. 

Supporters of the idea of bringing online casino games to Maryland will now have to wait to see if the referendum talk is a fantasy or reality. The failure to pass legislation this year suggests that mobile casino apps in Maryland could not go live until 2027 at the earliest.

Maryland does permit legal sports betting and also supports legal brick-and-mortar casino gaming. To advance online casino legislation in future sessions, stakeholders in the online casino industry must address concerns about a potential increase in problem gambling and the fear of cannibalizing brick-and-mortar casinos.

We’ll continue to follow the developments and bring you updates when they’re warranted.