DraftKings Pushes Back Against Maryland Online Casino Plan

February 16, 2023
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Non-casino gaming interests in Maryland are pushing back against proposed legislation that would bring online casinos to the state, but would do so through the state’s six land-based casinos.

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Non-casino gaming interests in Maryland are pushing back against proposed legislation that would bring online casinos to the state, but would do so through the state’s six land-based casinos.

The Maryland Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee heard testimony on Wednesday (February 15) on Senate Bill 267, a proposal to legalize online casino gaming pending voter approval in the November 2024 election.

The bill would allow each of the state’s six casino operators to obtain online gaming licenses, and representatives from FanDuel, DraftKings and MGM Resorts International all spoke in favor of authorizing internet gaming during Wednesday’s hearing.

However, the bill received pushback from several entities who have been licensed to offer sports betting and want a piece of the potentially much larger online casino pie, including DraftKings.

“When the licensing opportunity is limited to just state casinos, it drastically limits competition, and further limits the state’s ability to realize the most revenue possible,” said Frank Boston, a lobbyist for DraftKings who also owns a minority share of the company’s Maryland operation.

“As such, DraftKings asks this committee to please consider expanding market access provisions within the bill to give an opportunity for the state’s non-casino gaming stakeholders.”

Representatives from off-track betting locations (OTBs) Long Shot’s and Riverboat on the Potomac similarly asked the committee to amend the bill to permit the OTBs to apply for online casino licensure.

Riverboat touted its unique location in Maryland with a main entry point facing Virginia as part of an appeal that it would continue to bring players in from outside the state.

“Those folks would be just as happy to sit in there, on the water, and do iGaming,” said Tony Jones, part owner of Riverboat on the Potomac.

Alyse Cohen, owner of Long Shot’s, said giving casinos exclusive rights to online casino gaming would be “an unfair advantage”.

“Such a leg up has the potential to destroy OTBs,” Cohen said. “While OTBs are not casinos, we are gaming centers who compete for the same customers with the larger and more powerful casinos.”

“We also have to maintain the same security measures as the casinos, with far less income to cover the costs to remain viable businesses,” she added. “OTBs need to be treated equally.”

Sushant Sidh, a lobbyist testifying on behalf of Delta Bingo & Gaming, also pushed back against the casinos being given exclusivity, although he said the company was not opposed to the concept of online casino gaming in general.

“[Casinos] seem to have the sense of entitlement that they know everything best, and that’s just not the case,” Sidh said, pointing out that MGM affiliate BetMGM had already been fined for illegally taking sports bets before the state’s November launch.

“That goes to show you that when they have this moral authority on gaming, it’s not necessarily true,” Sidh continued. “There are other gaming companies in the state of Maryland, including the bingo industry that's operated for decades, and operated following every rule, regulation and law, so we believe that a system should be developed to vet all competent vendors with experience to allow them to operate, not just a chosen few.”

Committee chair and Democratic Senator Guy Guzzone said that the bill would likely be sent to a committee working group to fine-tune the proposal.

Bill sponsor Senator Ron Watson, also a Democrat, said his proposal would “complete the journey that our state started with casinos back in 2008”.

However, Republican Senator J.B. Jennings expressed concerns that even though he initially supported the beginning of the state’s gaming expansion, completing that journey may be a bridge too far.

“I remember Thanksgiving through Christmas, all I heard was FanDuel commercials,” Jennings said. “More than I heard Mariah Carey’s Christmas song, it was just non-stop.”

“And I mean that, where are we going too far, now that we’re going with this, and when you say these numbers are about how much we’re giving to the Education Trust Fund, that’s great, until you really think about what that number is, that’s somebody who’s gambling that lost that’s going into their fund, it’s less revenue in that person’s pocket."

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