Amended Maryland Online Casino Bill Moves To Senate

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Amended Maryland Online Casino Bill Moves To Senate
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An amended Maryland bill to legalize online casinos passed through the state’s House of Delegates on Saturday, just before Monday’s crossover deadline. The bill now moves into the Senate, where it’s proven difficult to pass online casino legislation in recent years.

House Bill 1319, which is sponsored by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, would allow for about 30 online casino licenses in Maryland. The state’s brick-and-mortar casinos could have access to between one and three mobile licenses. Off-track-betting facilities and bingo halls could also be awarded licenses, and there would be an additional process to award competitive licenses.

Licenses would cost $1 million and last five years. Mobile casino apps would be taxed at 55% of gross revenue, and live dealer games would be taxed at 20%.

Licensing process

Atterbeary’s bill aims to give licensing preference to businesses that meet a series of social equity criteria. A social equity applicant must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Lived in an economically disadvantaged area for at least five of the last 10 years
  • Attended a public school in an economically disadvantaged area for at least five years
  • Attended an in-state college with at least 40% of individuals eligible for the Pell Grant, and has a personal net worth below a yet-to-be-determined level

Social equity applicants would have first access during the competitive license application process. The two-round process would first open to social equity applicants before then opening up to everyone.

There’s also a benefit for brick-and-mortar facilities having social equity ownership. If a casino shows 5% ownership by a social equity applicant, it gains access to its first license. If a casino shows 33% ownership by a social equity applicant, it can receive a second and third license.

Passing the Senate

While passing through the House represents a notable step forward for the bill, there’s still a long way to go before legal Maryland online casinos become reality.

An online casino bill, Senate Bill 603, hasn’t passed through the Senate this session. Another online casino bill failed to make its way through the Maryland Senate last year as well. Both of those legislative efforts were proposed by Sen. Ron Watson.

Maryland’s legislative session lasts through April 8, giving legislators a few weeks to move HB 1319 through the Senate. If the bill passes through the Senate, it will also need voter approval in November.

“While I strongly support the passage of the iGaming bill to capture this critical and untapped revenue stream, I hope that at a minimum, both houses will pass the referendum,” Watson told US Bets via email. “If the referendum is passed, that will still allow both Houses to work out the implementation details. If this important and required step is not taken this session, nothing can happen until the 2026 election cycle.”