Senator introduces bill
A legal online casino market could be in the cards for Maryland after Senator Ron Watson introduced SB 603 following the failure of SB 267 to advance in 2023.
Watson filed the bill Friday along with a supporting piece of legislation that would authorize a referendum in Maryland’s November general election.
allow each casino to partner with two operators
The updated language in SB 603 would allow six state casinos and video lottery terminal operators to offer online casino gaming. The bill would allow each casino to partner with two operators, such as FanDuel or BetMGM, who both already offer retail and mobile sports betting in Maryland.
Under Watson’s bill, operators would need to pony up $1m for a five-year license fee and pay tax of 47% of gross revenue.
Boost for the state
The operator taxes would significantly boost state coffers, with 1% going to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) and another 1% to the state’s Problem Gambling Fund. The remaining 45% would go to educational funding via the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund.
If the Maryland legislature passes SB 603, lawmakers would also have to pass SB 565. This companion piece of legislation would take the online casino question to the voters, asking them on the ballot:
“Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize Internet gaming for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”
MLGA commissioned a study into the economic impact of online casinos
An issue Watson’s bill faces, and a hot topic among legislators, is cannibalization concerns. Fearing a negative impact on the net income of casinos and VLT operators in Maryland, the MLGA commissioned a study into the economic impact of online casinos.
The Innovation Group, however, recently presented the results of its study to the House Ways and Means Committee, stating the “potential cannibalization effect of online gaming was minimal.”
SB 603’s language also covers live dealer studios, which would create more job opportunities for Marylanders.
Gaming industry insiders believe Maryland, New York, Illinois, and Louisiana are the states most likely to approve online casino gaming in 2024.
Currently, only Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have legalized online casino gaming.
According to the Maryland General Assembly website, the Senate will hear Watson’s bill on February 28.
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