Maryland Online Casino Bill Moves to Senate

The Maryland House successfully passed House Bill 1319 with a 92-43 vote, spearheaded by House Delegate Vanessa E. Atterbeary. This development will propel the bill into the Senate chambers for further deliberation and assessment.

The bill’s passage in Maryland’s House of Delegates happened during its third reading, establishing a significant milestone amidst a backdrop of amendments. Notably, this development was reached just two days before the state’s crossover date, set for March 18.

As the legislative clock ticks, the Senate faces a pressing need for swift action on HB 1319. With the General Assembly scheduled to adjourn on April 8, time is of the essence for further progress and the potential enactment of this legislation. While the wait is on, Maryland has attracted widespread attention within the industry, with many stakeholders anticipating that the state holds the highest probability of enacting an online casino bill this year.

Displacement Fund Latest Revision to the Online Casino Legislation

On Friday, HB 1319 was amended to include a Video Lottery Employee Displacement Fund. This amendment aims to ease worries that the emergence of online casinos might reduce foot traffic at brick-and-mortar casinos and result in employment losses.

Hence, the fund will assist workers laid off at Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), such as Maryland’s six casinos. This fund, managed by the Department of Labor, will give impacted workers grants to help offset any salary reduction and enhance unemployment insurance benefits.

House Bill 1319 received the support of four casinos prior to this amendment: MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe Baltimore, Hollywood Casino Perryville, and Rocky Gap Casino. On the other hand, Live! Casino and Ocean Downs oppose the measure because they are concerned that legal online casino competitors may erode their customer base.

Three Types of License Potentially Up for Grabs

When HB 1319 advanced to its third reading on March 16th, Atterbeary introduced an amendment to broaden the scope of available licenses.

The initial licensing price for operators in Maryland would be $1 million, and renewal fees would be determined by taking the average yearly earnings over the previous three years and applying it to the license.

Three different licenses are available from the state: Class B facility licenses, licenses by right for retail casinos, and licenses given through competition. An operator’s average yearly gross revenues over the previous three years are used to calculate renewal fees set at 1%.

The proposed legislation outlines a minimum tax rate of 55% specifically for electronic games, which falls between the 18% to 57% tax range observed in the seven jurisdictions where gambling is now permitted. From the tax revenue, a segment was earmarked for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund. Also, a 20% tax rate would apply to live-dealer games. Furthermore, one percent of the revenues received are set aside for financing activities related to responsible gaming and problem gambling.

Additionally, the amendment included provisions prohibiting the use of credit cards for funding accounts and introduced guidelines pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

New Bill Expected to Cause an Uptick in Maryland Revenue

In the Old Line State, mobile sportsbooks continue to dominate the market, having accumulated $428.4 million in wagers last month, constituting nearly 97% of the total handle. However, the introduction of iGaming in the state is anticipated to yield an annual revenue exceeding $900 million.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones spoke in a news conference last week on the pros of legalizing iGaming, adding that the state needs to hasten up to start racking up proceeds.

“We can no longer rely on quick fixes or short-term approaches. They will only land us right back in the same place next year. At this point, we know what the solution is, and it’s finally time that we just say it. The answer is revenues.”

“Currently, in the state of Maryland, there is illegal iGaming going on to the tune of about $200 million a year where individuals are playing where there are no safeguards on there,” Atterbeary added, emphasizing safety as another rationale for legalization.


About the Author
Tebearau Egbe

Tebearau Egbe

Tebearau Egbe is a seasoned gambling writer with more than four years of experience. Armed with a Masters degree in philosophy, Egbe possesses a unique ability to dissect complex industry developments, distilling them into insightful narratives that captivate readers.

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