Maryland iGaming Bill Clears House Ahead of Crossover Deadline

Posted on: March 18, 2024, 03:29h. 

Last updated on: March 18, 2024, 03:34h.

Maryland iGaming legislation passed the state House of Delegates over the weekend before today’s “crossover” deadline.

Maryland iGaming online casino
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson says the iGaming bill passed by the state House of Delegates is dead on arrival in the upper chamber. Ferguson says now isn’t the time for more gaming, as the state’s six land-based casinos saw retail slot and table win decline 3% last year. (Image: Capital News Service)

House Bill 1319 cleared the lower chamber of the General Assembly with a 92-43 vote. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard) introduced the iGaming measure in February and it secured committee support by way of the House Ways and Means last week.

Atterbeary’s online casino bill moved to the full House floor over the weekend where the needed three-fifths majority support (60%) was realized. HB 1319 has since moved to the Senate where it’s been directed for initial review in the Budget and Taxation Committee. The Senate has only until April 8 to pass the bill.

HB 1319 would authorize up to 30 online casino licenses. Each of the state’s six brick-and-mortar casinos could qualify for three iGaming skins.

Maryland’s four off-track betting and two bingo venues that hold sports betting licenses would qualify for a single online gaming platform concession. Urban One, which held an ownership position in MGM National Harbor, would also be allocated a single online casino permit.

The five remaining iGaming licenses would be put up for competitive bid.

Maryland iGaming Push 

Before HB 1319 found a favorable vote, House delegates passed several amendments to the legislation. Lawmakers decided the state should receive 55% of each operator’s online slot win and 20% of the interactive table game revenue.

The chamber’s consideration of the online casino statute additionally resulted in a prohibition of credit cards being allowed to fund iGaming player accounts.

Each license would cost a one-time upfront fee of $1 million. Renewals would come every five years at 1% of the operator’s average annual gross gaming revenue over the previous three years.

HB 1319 is a legislative-initiated referendum asking voters in November to amend the state Constitution to allow online casino games. The measure needs three-fifths support in the Senate and then Gov. Wes Moore’s (D) endorsement before it can reach the ballot.

iGaming is legal in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Odds Remain Long

Democratic House leaders included revenue from iGaming in their $1.3 billion spending increase to the state’s $63 billion budget plan approved by the Senate.

House lawmakers think they can pay for the education and transportation increases by raising vehicle taxes and highway tolls and legalizing online slots and table games. The chamber has also proposed implementing a 75-cent tax on every Uber and Lyft ride.

State senators oppose the House budget add-on.

To the hardworking Marylanders out there who are feeling the challenges of stubborn inflation, we do not want you to bear an additional burden,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore) said last week.

The Senate is expected to oppose HB 1319 despite fiscal analysis concluding that iGaming could generate more than a quarter of a billion dollars yearly in new tax money.

Maryland retail casino win fell 3% last year, and iGaming could further damper in-person play. The state allocates most of its gaming taxes to the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which supports public education and associated infrastructure.

The state Senate opted to fold on similar iGaming legislation introduced this year by Sen. Ron Watson (D-Prince George).

Watson’s online gaming measure, Senate Bill 603, also sought to allow the state’s physical casinos to operate online casino platforms in exchange for $1 million in licensing fees. A 47% tax on gaming win was also suggested.

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