Maryland iCasino Legalization Efforts Thwarted In 2023


The Maryland Legislature will not approve a bill this legislative session that could have legalized iCasino in the state, bill sponsor Sen. Ron Watson told US Bets. 

SB 267 would have brought the question of legalizing iCasino in front of state voters in 2024, as a referendum is needed to expand gaming in Maryland. Putting the question in front of voters in 2024 is still possible, but the path to that point will be different, Watson said.

Instead of trying to pass the legislation this year, Watson instead hopes to create a study related to expanded online gambling in Maryland. Watson would like to see a study conducted by the Maryland Lottery to provide his fellow legislators with enough information to effectively discuss iCasino efforts in the 2024 legislative session. 

Learning curve

A poker player, Watson knows the casino industry well. He believes legalized online casino gaming makes sense for Maryland, which saw legal mobile sportsbooks go live in the state at the end of 2022. Some of his colleagues in the legislature aren’t quite as knowledgeable about the space, though. 

Watson wants to change that. 

If the study proposal is approved, it would attempt to estimate the size of the illegal market as well as other topics, like legalization’s potential economic impact. The study would also look at the potential effects on problem gambling and steps needed to mitigate a negative impact. Additionally, the study would consider whether legalized online casino games could result in diminished in-person gaming at the state’s casinos.

“Once we’ve got [the study], we’ll have what we think is the bare bones … and then we can start taking the original bill that I drafted, add a little more meat to it,” Watson said. “I look forward to reintroducing it next session.”

Watson’s original bill proposed a 15% tax on iCasino revenue and licenses costing $500,000. Watson estimated earlier this session that online casino apps could generate $100 million annually for Maryland. Should iCasino eventually come to Maryland, it’s expected that major brands like BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel will all enter the market. 

In 2024, legislators will have to discuss who receives licenses should iCasino be legalized. The state’s casinos are obvious candidates, and other stakeholders like the owners of off-track-betting facilities testified during a Senate committee hearing this year that they’d like access to online casino licenses as well. 

Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Author: Ryan Gonzales