Maryland online casino efforts die for 2024

Roses on a tombstone
Image: Shutterstock

Monday was technically the last chance for efforts to legalize and regulate online casinos in Maryland this year, but it was apparent once the bill advanced out of the House and into the Senate last month that there was little appetite for the measure in the higher chamber.

In fact, the entire debate around online casinos was mired in controversy. From its introduction and throughout its journey through the House, opponents came out in full force against the efforts with a fervor the industry hasn’t seen in many years.

Cannibalization debate dominated iGaming headlines

A flurry of research studies relitigated the issue of online casinos potentially cannibalizing brick and mortar properties with an effort from The Innovation Group suggesting a potential impact on retail bottom lines of between 8-10% and others, like a paper from Eilers and Krejcik commissioned by iDEA Growth that put the number at closer to 2%.

The standard anti-gambling opponents embraced the Innovation results but so too did local retail organizations and, most importantly, unions. The AFL-CIO and UNITE HERE were some of the labor groups that showed up in Annapolis to oppose the legislation.

Even with the opposition, a version of House Delegate Vanessa E Atterbeary’s House Bill 1319 managed to pass through the lower chamber in March by a vote of 92-43.

Maryland Senate had no interest in iGaming

The amended version of the bill would have offered up to 30 online casino licenses and had an amendment tacked on late in the game that would ban credit card deposits. Since the expansion would require a change to the state constitution, Maryland voters would weigh in via referendum as they did on sports betting in 2020.

Once the bill got to the Senate though, it stalled, much like Sen. Ron Watson’s iGaming bill did earlier in the session. Once the state budget came out at the start of the month and did not include tax revenue from online casino expansion, the writing was on the wall for the bill.

The bill died in the Budget and Taxation Committee, which met multiple times on Monday but did not include HB 1339 on the agenda.