Maryland Halts Progress on Online Casino Legislation After Budget Agreement

Amidst budget negotiations in Maryland, hopes for the legalization of online casinos have been dashed for the year 2024. With online casino revenue not finding its way into the state’s budget agreement, it appears that Marylanders will have to wait until at least 2027 to see any progress in this regard.

Maryland’s Legislative Session Ends Without Inclusion of Online Casino Revenue

The state’s legislative session saw no inclusion of online casino revenue as a funding source in the budget deal reached on April 3. This outcome pushes any potential discussion on online casino legalization to the following years.

Although there were initial hopes for a referendum to reach Maryland voters by 2026, the recent developments suggest that such discussions may not gain traction until later.Β 

Sen. Ron Watson expressed that given the failure to pass legislation this year, the earliest possibility for mobile casino apps to go live in Maryland would be in 2027.

Despite Maryland already permitting legal sports betting and hosting brick-and-mortar casinos, the road to online casino legislation seems fraught with obstacles. Stakeholders in the online casino industry will need to address concerns regarding problem gambling and potential competition with existing physical casinos to garner support in future sessions.

Online Casino Legislation in Maryland Faces Resistance

The exclusion of online casinos from the state budget is particularly significant considering the initial momentum behind the proposed legislation. The House had passed a bill supporting online casinos, including it in its budget proposal, but Senate leadership was firm in their stance against such measures.

Proponents argued that regulated iGaming could address illegal gambling, but debates persisted over potential job losses and addiction risks, with the bill undergoing significant changes to address various concerns.Β 

Several challenges contributed to the demise of the online casino legislation. Notably, not all casinos supported the initiative, with Maryland Live! and Ocean Downs Casino expressing concerns about potential job losses and cannibalization of their businesses. Arundel County, the county where Maryland Live! Is located, also championed a study that corroborated the concerns regarding cannibalization.

Additionally, labor unions were strongly opposed to the legalization efforts.

At the same time, a recent study commissioned by the Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) challenged the conventional belief that online casinos cannibalize traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, revealing instead a symbiotic relationship between the two.Β 

Conducted by the Analysis Group, the study examined six states and found a significant increase in overall gaming revenue, suggesting that online gaming complements rather than competes with physical casinos.

However, despite these setbacks, there remains a glimmer of hope for proponents of online casinos. The fact that the Maryland House managed to pass the legislation demonstrates some level of support, suggesting that future sessions may see renewed efforts toward legalization.