Maryland Senator Ron Watson Tries Again with Online Casino Bill

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In 2023, Maryland Senator Ron Watson introduced SB267 in an attempt to legalize online casinos in the state. The effort failed to move forward, and Watson is back at it again in 2024. SB603 is now the bill on the table, up for consideration during this legislative session. The bill was presented on January 26 and could see Maryland become the eighth state in the US to offer legalized online casino gaming.

More on the Proposal

If passed into law, online casino gambling would be overseen by the Maryland State Lottery & Gaming Commission. The bill’s language has been updated to include casinos and video lottery terminal operators as eligible parties for offering services. Both entity types will have an opportunity to apply for licensing.

The measure recommends five additional licenses for companies that are based in Maryland for a decade or more. Such companies must have a 5% interest in a VLT operator. If the party is approved for a license, they must spend $5 million to create a live dealer studio in Maryland.

License holders would be subject to the tax rate on adjusted revenues, which currently sits at 47%. Funds would go to the State Lottery Fund. Operators will be allowed to deduct 100% of promotional credits with deductions limited to 20% of the promotional spending after the first year of operations.

To help assist with problem gambling needs, a 1% cut from taxes and fees will be collected. The funds will be placed in a special account for responsible gambling resources.

More Details on the Legislation

SB603 must be approved for online casino gaming to move forward, along with SB565. The second bill would allow online casinos to be voted on by the public. The question on the ballot would ask residents if they favor the expansion of commercial gambling to allow internet gaming for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.

The legislation is being considered as a way to bring more revenues to the state to cover budget challenges. The industry is expected to bring $30 million to $40 million earnings. Presently, the state has a projected deficit and financial obligations of $400 million. The majority of the deficit can be seen in education.

Maryland is already home to legalized online sports betting. Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel offer wagering options in the state. The hope is that lawmakers will be on board since the sports betting industry has already done so well.  

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