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No Surprises as Maryland iGaming Hopes Die

There were no last minute efforts to save iGaming during the state’s final day in session

Poker chips are seen on a table ready for use.
Friday, April 28, 2023-Poker chips are seen on a table ready for use at the Card House in Port St. Lucie.-ERIC HASERT/TCPALM

By Robert Linnehan

There would be no upsets, there would be no buzzer beaters, and there would be no final Hail Mary for iGaming during Maryland’s last day of legislative action.

No, iGaming legalization never stood a chance in the Maryland Senate. After a contentious journey through the state’s House of Delegates, which included ferocious debates on the potential cannibalization of land-based casinos, the bill died with a whimper in the Senate with nary a debate on the floor.

It was not a surprise. The state released its budget earlier in the month and it did not include iGaming revenues, effectively ending any chance the gaming had for legalization this year.

Senate Leaders Remain True to Their Word

Rep. Vanessa Atterbeary’s (D-13) iGaming bill, HB 1319, passed out of the House of Delegates by a 92-43 vote on in March. The bill, needing a constitutional amendment to go into effect, narrowly eclipsed the necessary three-fifths majority to be approved.

Despite its approval, Senate leaders proved to have no appetite to tackle iGaming. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-46) and Senate Budget Taxation Chair Guy Guzzone (D-13) both said the Senate would not hear an iGaming bill this session.

Atterbeary’s bill allowed for up to 30 iGaming licenses in the state at an initial application cost of $1 million. The licenses last for five years and include three tiers; those for brick-and-mortar casinos, those for Class B wagering facilities licensed for online sports betting, and between five to 18 competitively-awarded, untethered iGaming licenses.

Maryland’s six casinos would have been able to partner with up to three iGaming operators if the bill had been approved.

While the bill eventually did make its way out of the House, it was surrounded by controversy, as several studies claimed iGaming legalization would severely cannibalize Maryland land-based casinos.

A study from the Innovation Group, which developed the report on iGaming for the Maryland General Assembly’s Budget Committees, concluded that iGaming legalization could result in a negative impact on gross gaming revenues for state casinos.

“In all, we observed 2% same-store casino revenue growth in non-iGaming states, versus an 8.2% decline in iGaming states, suggesting a cannibalization rate of approximately 10% of casino gaming revenue,” the report authors wrote.

While another study from Eilers and Krejcik, commissioned by iDEA Growth, put the cannibalization percentage closer to 2%, the damage had already been done.

iGaming Fate Would Have Been Decided by Voters

If approved by the Senate, an iGaming question would have appeared on the November general election ballot, the same process sports betting went through in the state back in 2021.

If it had been approved by a simple majority of Maryland voters in the November general election, iGaming would have been taxed at a rate of 55%. The majority of iGaming revenues were earmarked for the state’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which primarily benefits state education.

According to the bill’s fiscal summary, Maryland could see $4.5 million in additional revenue in FY 2025 if iGaming is legalized, but would see revenues increase by nearly $200 million in FY 2026 ($206.5 million) and upwards of $340 million by FY 2029.


Robert Linnehan

Covering regulatory developments in online gambling. Editing/writing/creating a newsletter for readers across all formats.

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