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Maryland’s First Hearing on Online Casino Legislation

Dive into the contentious debate surrounding Maryland's proposed online casino legislation, exploring contrasting viewpoints on its economic ramifications, social implications, and fiscal considerations.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Feb 27, 2024

Maryland's First Hearing on Online Casino Legislation

Maryland's foray into online casino legislation encountered a multifaceted discussion during its initial hearing this year, highlighting divergent perspectives on the proposed measures. The Maryland House Ways and Means Committee convened for an extensive session, spanning over five hours, to deliberate on the intricacies of the proposed iGaming legislation.

 

The Key Takeaways:

  1. Economic Impact: Delve into the nuanced arguments presented by stakeholders, ranging from gaming industry proponents highlighting potential revenue boosts to labor unions expressing concerns over job losses and revenue cannibalization.
  2. Social Concerns: Explore the multifaceted discussions surrounding problem gambling prevention, union representation, and the potential effects on local communities and minority-owned businesses.
  3. Fiscal Implications: Uncover the intricate fiscal considerations, including projections of revenue loss for education funds, the impact on local economies, and the broader implications for Maryland's financial landscape.

 

Chairing the session, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, sponsor of HB1319, set the tone by presenting arguments in favor of online gaming. She cited evidence from other states suggesting that online platforms could operate alongside traditional casinos without significant adverse effects, while potentially offering improved safeguards for problem gambling.

However, the hearing also featured a substantial representation of detractors, including union representatives, casino workers, and advocates for problem gambling prevention. Their concerns primarily revolved around potential economic impacts, including job losses and revenue declines, as well as fears of exacerbating problem gambling issues.

Notably, while four of the six Maryland casinos expressed support for legalizing online casinos, opposition from labor unions emerged as a significant hurdle, echoing concerns seen in other states such as New York. Maryland AFL-CIO President Donna Edwards cautioned against jeopardizing the gains achieved in employment since the inception of the state's casino industry in 2008, urging lawmakers to proceed cautiously with internet gaming.

Representing Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, bartender Heidi Zimmerman highlighted potential repercussions for casino workers, particularly those reliant on tips, should foot traffic decline due to the introduction of online gaming.

In response, proponents of the legislation, including representatives from prominent Maryland casinos, emphasized the potential for online gaming to complement existing operations and even stimulate employment growth.

However, not all Maryland casinos are in favor of the proposed legislation. The Cordish Companies and Ocean Downs Casino and Racetrack presented dissenting viewpoints, citing examples of negative outcomes witnessed in other states following the introduction of iGaming.

The debate was further fueled by conflicting studies regarding the potential impacts of online gaming. Stakeholders clashed over the credibility and relevance of various reports, underscoring the challenges in predicting the legislation's repercussions.

 

“Contrary to what you may have heard, the sky will not fall if iGaming is implemented in the state of Maryland.”

 

Among the focal points of discussion were the fiscal implications, including projected revenue loss for education funds and concerns regarding impacts on local communities dependent on casino-generated income. Chairwoman Atterbeary emphasized the importance of online casino revenue in funding the state's educational initiatives, framing it as a necessary step to fulfill commitments to Maryland's youth.

 

Conclusions

As the legislative process unfolds, Maryland finds itself navigating a complex landscape of economic interests, social concerns, and fiscal imperatives in its pursuit of regulating online gambling. The deliberations will continue as the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee prepares to scrutinize the proposed legislation, ensuring that the path toward iGaming regulation remains marked by nuanced debate and careful consideration of diverse perspectives.

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