Although efforts to legalize internet gaming came up short this year, supporters were able to add a requirement to the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget law that the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) submit a detailed report on the issue to the General Assembly before next year's legislative session.
Early work on the study has begun, according to Seth Elkin, managing director of communications with Maryland Lottery and Gaming.
“We have issued a request for proposals (RFP) and will be contracting with a vendor to assist us in preparing the iGaming study,” Elkin said.
The agency expects to award the contract on July 31, with the work taking place over the next few months. The study needs to be submitted to the legislature by November 15, according to the state's budget law.
The purpose of the study is to better understand the potential opportunities and impact on Maryland if the state legalizes online gambling.
According to the 76-page RFP, the General Assembly is specifically interested in understanding the current regulatory landscape for iGaming, the estimated size for a regulated market in Maryland, as well as the current offshore market, and the potential economic impact of legal regulated iGaming on Maryland’s brick-and-mortar casinos, other gaming venues, and the state lottery.
The third party chosen to conduct the study will also need to examine methods to transition individuals from the illegal iGaming market to the legal market, consumer protection mechanisms, and the impact of iGaming on problem gambling.
Elkin told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that Maryland's regulatory authority cannot speak to the legislative path for iGaming, which is something the General Assembly will decide.
“We’re working on the study they asked us to do,” he said.
Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Senators Ronald Watson and Nancy King, both Democrats, would have placed a referendum on the November 2022 ballot to legalize online casino gaming in the state but it failed to pass the Senate before a March 20 deadline.
Maryland’s legislative session adjourned on April 10.
Watson, an ardent supporter of expanding gaming in Maryland, was unavailable for comment. He made it clear to his colleagues throughout the 2023 session in Annapolis that internet gaming was the one vital component when it came to gaming in the state.
Watson also supports Maryland entering into the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, which would allow online poker players to compete with players from Delaware, Michigan, Nevada and New Jersey.
Lawmakers are expected to bring up iGaming legislation during next year’s session that begins on January 10, with the idea of letting voters decide if they want it through a referendum on November 5.
If approved next year, iGaming likely would launch in Maryland sometime in 2025. Maryland has six brick-and-mortar casinos, along with retail and mobile sports betting, and a state lottery.
Maryland was joined by New York, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana as states that were unable to pass bills legalizing iGaming in 2023.
However, Rhode Island became the seven state to legalize iGaming when Republican Governor Daniel McKee signed Senate Bill 948 into law on June 20.
The law, which is effective on March 1, 2024, authorizes the Rhode Island Lottery to implement and operate iGaming via an exclusive agreement with Bally’s Corporation and IGT. The state estimates a first-year market size of $70m in revenue.
Rhode Island will soon join Connecticut, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware as states that allow iGaming. Nevada legalized internet gambling in 2001 and adopted regulations in December 2011, but the state’s casinos are only permitted to offer internet poker.
Internet lottery games are authorized in ten states, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s U.S. Internet Gambling Overview, while more than two dozen states allow internet wagering on horse races and 22 states have passed laws affirming the legality or establishing regulations for online fantasy sports contests.