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Maryland Delays Online Casino Legislation Until 2026

Explore Maryland's decision to postpone online casino legislation until 2026 despite making strides in 2024, highlighting the complexities and concerns surrounding the issue and the prospects for future legalization efforts.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Apr 14, 2024

Maryland Delays Online Casino Legislation Until 2026

Maryland, often seen as a frontrunner in online casino legislation, has decided to postpone further action until 2026, despite coming closest to passing online casino laws in 2024. Senator Ron Watson, the sponsor of the Senate bill, confirmed to PlayUSA that he won't be reintroducing the Maryland online casino bill in 2025.

The decision comes in the wake of the conclusion of Maryland's legislative session, where the Senate opted not to proceed with online casino discussions this year. Although the House passed HB1319 and included internet gaming in its budget proposal, the Senate's decision not to act means that the issue will remain dormant until at least 2026.

 

Key Points

  1. Postponement to 2026: Maryland delays online casino legislation until 2026 despite making significant progress in 2024, signaling a cautious approach from lawmakers amidst various concerns and challenges.
  2. Legislative Journey: Senator Ron Watson's efforts to introduce iCasino legislation in 2024 faced hurdles, with the Senate opting not to proceed with discussions. Despite hopes for a referendum bill to accelerate the process, the decision to postpone reflects a consensus to wait for a more opportune time.
  3. Challenges and Optimism: Concerns surrounding problem gambling, casino cannibalization, and job losses contributed to the Senate's decision. However, proponents remain optimistic, believing that with time and continued dialogue, Maryland can successfully navigate the complexities of online casino legalization and capitalize on its economic potential in 2026.

 

Legalizing online casinos in Maryland requires approval from voters in a general election, and without passing a referendum to put the question in front of voters this November, the next opportunity for voter approval will be in 2026. Senator Watson emphasized that introducing the bill in 2025 wouldn't expedite the process, as even if passed, there would be no execution until 2026.

The journey towards online casino legalization in Maryland has been a long one. In 2023, Senator Watson first introduced his iCasino bill with hopes of passage in 2024. However, extensive discussions in both the House and Senate this year have led Watson to believe that another year of debate won't yield significant progress.

While there's still a possibility for other legislators to introduce an online casino bill next year, it seems Maryland is opting to let the debate rest for a year and return with a stronger push in 2026.

Watson had hoped to expedite the process by proposing just passing a referendum bill to get voter approval this year. However, his colleagues weren't receptive to legalizing iCasino before 2026. Despite the setback, Watson remains optimistic, believing that as time goes by and more data becomes available, concerns about online gaming will dissipate.

Senator Watson is confident that Maryland can get online casino legalization done in 2026, emphasizing the importance of modernizing iGaming to sustain and grow current industry revenues in the state. He believes it's crucial for Maryland not to fall behind in this rapidly evolving sector.

Concerns and Challenges

Several factors contributed to the Senate's decision to delay online casino legislation. One major concern was the impact of online gaming on problem gambling, particularly in light of the launch of online sports betting in November 2022. The Senate wanted more time to observe these impacts before proceeding with iCasino legislation.

Additionally, two of the state's six casinos expressed concerns about potential cannibalization from online gaming, while labor union workers worried about job losses at brick-and-mortar casinos. These concerns, coupled with the Senate's focus on developing a balanced budget plan without iCasino revenue, contributed to the decision to postpone legislation until 2026.

 

“Despite the setback, Watson remains optimistic, believing that as time goes by and more data becomes available, concerns about online gaming will dissipate.”

 

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges and setbacks, proponents of online casino legalization in Maryland remain hopeful for the future. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, the sponsor of the House bill, focused her push on generating revenue to fund educational initiatives for 2028 and beyond. While the Senate may have opted for a cautious approach this year, there's potential for a renewed push in 2026.

Senator Watson believes that with time and continued dialogue, many of the obstacles to online casino legalization may dissipate. He hopes that by 2026, Maryland will be better positioned to capitalize on the economic opportunities presented by online gaming, ensuring the state remains competitive in an evolving industry landscape.

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