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Maryland Online Casino Bill Faces Uphill Battle

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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Maryland Online Casino Bill Faces Uphill Battle

The eagerly anticipated Senate hearing on the Maryland online casino bill, following its passage through the House, concluded with subdued deliberations on Tuesday, hinting at a potential stalemate in this session's legislative journey regarding Maryland iCasino.

HB1319, the subject of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee's scrutiny, had previously received robust support in the House, sailing through with a commanding vote of 92-43 a mere ten days earlier. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, the bill's sponsor and Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, took center stage to advocate for its merits. However, what transpired during the committee session fell short of igniting the robust dialogue anticipated, with proceedings drawing to a close after a succinct 18 minutes.

 

Key Points

  1. Subdued Senate Hearing: The Senate hearing on the Maryland online casino bill, following its passage in the House, concluded with minimal engagement from committee members. Despite its recent approval in the House, the hearing garnered little attention and ended swiftly after just 18 minutes.
  2. Atterbeary's Advocacy: Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, the bill's sponsor, emphasized the crucial role of online casino revenue in supporting educational initiatives like the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Atterbeary's impassioned plea underscored the urgency of securing stable funding for essential programs, particularly for Pre-K three and four-year-olds.
  3. Budget Negotiations Crucial: The fate of the Maryland online casino bill hinges on budget negotiations, with the House including iCasino revenue in its proposal while the Senate remains cautious. Prospects for the bill's advancement appear uncertain without support from the budget committee, posing a significant challenge for proponents amidst opposition from Senate leaders.

 

Atterbeary's presentation underscored the significance of the Maryland online casino initiative within the broader context of the state's revenue framework. She emphasized its integral role in bolstering revenue streams earmarked to support local jurisdictions and uphold commitments to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an educational initiative facing looming funding challenges beyond 2027.

Central to Atterbeary's advocacy was the projected revenue potential of $300 million, as outlined by PlayUSA, which could significantly bolster funding for the Blueprint, potentially reaching $1 billion by 2029. Her impassioned plea highlighted the urgency of securing stable funding for essential educational programs, particularly those catering to Pre-K three and four-year-olds, underlining the critical importance of addressing anticipated revenue shortfalls.

Despite Atterbeary's compelling presentation, the committee session was not devoid of concerns. Sen. Joanne Benson raised pertinent questions regarding the potential socio-economic ramifications of legalizing iGaming, particularly voicing apprehensions about its impact on marginalized communities and existing casino establishments. Citing a February report from Morgan State University, Benson echoed concerns about cannibalization and the potential for job losses within affected communities.

In response, Atterbeary reiterated the imperative of regulating the burgeoning online gambling market, proposing measures to mitigate concerns such as cannibalization through the establishment of the Video Lottery Facility Displacement Fund. This fund, as elucidated by Atterbeary, aims to provide support to displaced casino employees and alleviate potential job losses stemming from the advent of online gaming.

The future of the Maryland online casino bill now hangs in the balance as it awaits budget negotiations. While the House has included iCasino revenue in its budget proposal, signaling a commitment to exploring innovative revenue streams, the Senate remains cautious, citing concerns about problem gambling and potential economic disruptions. With a final vote on the Maryland budget scheduled for April 3, and the legislative session drawing to a close on April 8, the bill's trajectory remains uncertain.

 

“Despite the subdued Senate hearing, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary's impassioned advocacy underscores the urgency of securing stable funding for essential programs, particularly for Pre-K three and four-year-olds, amidst ongoing budget negotiations.”

 

Conclusion

Despite impassioned efforts by proponents like Sen. Ron Watson, who spearheaded the legislation in the Senate, prospects for the bill's advancement appear tenuous without support from the budget committee. Senate leaders, including Senate President Bill Ferguson, have voiced opposition to iGaming, signaling a formidable obstacle for proponents of the Maryland online casino bill as they navigate the intricacies of the legislative landscape.

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