Will Maryland Online Casinos Get the Green Light in 2024?
It’s been a little over a year since the first online sportsbooks went live in Maryland, and the state is currently home to 13 retail sportsbooks and 12 online options. Since the market opened, it’s blossomed – taking $4.5 billion in bets, generating $562.8 million in sports betting revenue, and contributing over $43 million in taxes.
This has left many wondering: when will online casinos be legalized in Maryland?
Current Legal Gambling Options in Maryland
Online sports betting was legalized in Maryland in 2020. A little over a year later, retail sportsbooks were launched, and then, in November 2022, online bookies went live. However, despite 75% of the state’s population indicating they favor online casino legalization, there are no legal real money sites available. Instead, Maryland gamers looking to play casino games can use one of the state’s six land-based casinos or an online sweepstakes site.
For those not located near a land-based casino, the only legal option is an online sweepstakes, a free-play site providing authentic casino games from some of the best global content creators. Many social and sweepstakes casinos are available, but according to the McLuck review on casinocabbie.com, this platform is the best option available to MD players.
The main difference between a sweepstakes casino and a real money gambling site is that you’re not playing games for prizes. Instead, you can win prizes through onsite competitions, not through casino games, making them legal.
While sweepstakes casinos are a good stop-gap used by players across the USA, Maryland citizens look at 2024 as the year online casinos may become legal.
Senator Ron Watson has indicated that he will propose online casino legislation as early as January 2024. In preparation, The Innovation Group created a report last month for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency assessing the pros and cons of legalization and what the market would look like.
The report based its findings on the six states that have already legalized online casinos (New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, and Connecticut) and local MD data, concluding that Maryland online casinos could generate as much as $900 million in revenue annually. Depending on the tax bracket decided (10-30%), this could result in a sizable $90-271 million in tax revenue, which would help address the current budget deficit.
The report detailed that the current size of the offshore gambling market in Maryland was worth $197 million in 2022. It suggested that the appropriate number of online casinos would be 12, allowing two potential skins (branded online sites) per land-based casino. It also added that the effect on the land-based industry would be minimal – an important statement since the cannibalization of the land-based industry is an argument often used by opponents of iGaming legislation.
Maryland’s 2024 legislative session opens on January 10th, 2024, and runs until April 8th. When Senator Watson proposes his new iGaming bill, he’ll have until the cut-off date to pass it through the House and Senate. If successful, the bill would appear on the public ballot in the November 2024 general election, leaving it up to the general public to approve or veto the measure.
While there is substantial support for legal iGaming in the state, a similar bill proposed in 2023 was rejected, meaning it may not be likely. That said, this has given Senators time to refine proposals based on earlier objections, so it is hopeful that Maryland residents could see online casinos legalized in 2024, with sites launching by 2025. It certainly seems that there’s a legitimate economic incentive to legalize, along with government support and demand from players within the state.