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Maryland could become the latest US state to legalise online casino after an amended bill proceeded to the Senate.

The Maryland House passed an iGaming authorisation bill over the weekend, with delegates voting two days ahead of the deadline.

Passing 92-43, the proposed law cleared the three-fifths needed due to Maryland’s constitutional ban on gambling.  

Lawmakers outlined a $1.3bn plan for new state revenue on Friday 15 March, including from legalised gaming and tax rises.

The news comes in the face of a projected budget shortfall caused by rising education and transportation costs.

HB 1319 now heads to the Senate where it has just weeks to pass ahead of the 8 April end of 2024 legislative session.

The Old Line State is widely considered one of the best prospects for new US iGaming legislation this year, alongside Maine.  

While online casino legislation has also been tabled in Illinois and New York, these efforts are expected to face a more difficult regulatory path, according to observers.  

The Maryland law is also by no means certain to pass the Senate.

The bill has faced opposition from union leaders and hospitality workers, who have cited potential cannibalisation concerns as reason to oppose the bill to the House .

Cannibalisation of land-based casino revenue, and to what extent it is a real risk, has become a lively debate.

A recent study argued iGaming actually boosted retail casino revenue in states where it is live.

This contrasts with a prior report commissioned by the Maryland gaming regulator that purported to show deep cannibalisation effects in all US iGaming states.

What’s in the law?

Tax rates would be set at a minimum of 55% for most online casino games. Live dealer games on the other hand would be taxed at 20% of revenue.  

The proposed law would establish a tiered system with 30 available licences, costing $1m for a five-year term.

These are divided into three types. In addition to the state’s six brick-and-mortar casinos, eight “Class B” licences will also be made available to racetracks and video lottery terminal operators.

Depending on how many licences are applied, between five and 18 additional licences will also be awarded through a competitive tender process.

Several last-minute amendments to the legislation were added by lawmakers ahead of the Saturday vote.

These included an increase in the available licences, a credit card ban and the automatic provision of a counsellor to individuals that sign up to the state’s self-exclusion programme.

This represents a change from the previous opt-in system. One amendment also passed that added new language attaching licensing to DEI goals.

Under the revised framework, casinos will be able to apply for two additional licences if at least 33% is owned by a “social equity partner” in a joint venture.

This is defined as being a person or group of people that meet certain criteria around disadvantage.

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