2023 iGaming bid failed to get Senate hearing

Maryland: Senator Watson proposes revised online gaming bill with multi-state poker to address budget gaps

Reading time 1:26 min

Maryland may potentially join the ranks of states legalizing online gaming, including poker, as Senator Ron Watson plans to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session. The move aligns with ongoing studies by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, with Watson identifying it as an opportunity to generate additional revenue amid the state's significant budgetary challenges.

Watson, noting the potential revenue of $30 million to $40 million, emphasized the urgency due to the state's projected $400 million deficit and financial obligations, particularly in education, as per media reports. Maryland already permits online sports wagering, with major companies like FanDuel, Caesars, and DraftKings operating in the state since November 2022.

Although Watson advocated for iGaming legislation in 2023 with a proposal named SB 267, the bill did not progress beyond the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. The current proposal envisions up to 12 operators, requiring a $1 million fee for a four-year license. Watson had previously suggested imposing a $500,000 fee for a gaming license, emphasizing licenses should carry five-year terms. Additionally, a 46.5% tax on online gambling is proposed, allowing the state's six casinos to form partnerships with online operators and establish interstate compacts for online poker.

The potential inclusion of online poker in the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) could expand player pools, considering Maryland's population exceeds 6.1 million.

However, not all stakeholders are in favor of this development. Leaders of the Unite Here union, Tracy Lingo and Paul Schwab, representing 100,000 casino workers, have expressed concerns about potential job risks associated with online gaming in Maryland. Despite opposition, several legalized states have reported record revenue gains in recent months, marking the industry's ten-year milestone in the U.S. in 2023.

The emergence of a new online poker and casino bill signifies the ongoing efforts to establish a regulated online poker market in Maryland. In November, a report commissioned by state regulators foresaw significant potential in the online casino and poker sectors. The report, conducted by The Innovation Group, estimated a substantial gross gaming revenue of $533.4 million in 2026. Further projections anticipated the combined verticals to reach $921.1 million by the year 2032.

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