Like many states, Maryland is considering expanding its gambling profile. Maryland’s work with sports betting may also signal that the state’s lawmakers are looking at other online gambling options, such as online casinos.
Certainly, they’ve had a front-row seat to how online sites can work, since there are forms of legal online gambling in most of the states surrounding Maryland including West Virginia Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia. So, between its history with gambling and all the “peer pressure,” it would be no surprise to see a move toward online casinos in Maryland.
If you’re interested in Maryland’s progression toward new frontiers in the world of gambling, you’re on the right page. So, keep reading for all the latest and greatest from the Old Line State.
Sweepstakes casinos in Maryland
Is online gambling legal in Maryland?
It depends on what you mean. Maryland has no legal online casinos and poker sites. Although there might be online sportsbooks in Maryland soon, there are no legal sites for playing online slots or table games.
Like many states, Maryland gambling law takes the default position that all gambling is illegal, then writes exemptions and exceptions to the law in order to allow the desired activities. At this point, online casinos and poker rooms are simply not listed as acceptable formats. However, there are a few methods to gamble online in Maryland that are both legal and safe.
For one thing, playing daily fantasy sports is legal in Maryland. In fact, from a purely legal standpoint, DFS has been legal in Maryland since 2012. Thanks to Maryland House Bill 7 (2012), all fantasy sports (including DFS) were officially exempted from the definition of gambling under Maryland law. You can play DFS at any number of major sites, including DraftKings and FanDuel.
Another option for a type of online gambling in Maryland is horse betting. Maryland is one of the majority of states in the US that allows its residents to place pari-mutuel bets via the internet on horse races around the country. You will find plenty of options to bet on horse racing through your phone or laptop including TVG.
Finally, there is one other option you have for online casino and poker action in Maryland. There are several sweepstakes sites that offer slots, table games and interactive poker to those who log on. Sites like Chumba Casino, Global Poker, LuckyLand Slots, and Funzpoints all offer the opportunity to wind up with cash prizes. Best of all, you can redeem these cash prizes for free. So, if you want to play casino games in Maryland but do not want to drive to one of the six casinos in the state, you might be able to scratch your itch through a sweepstakes casino.
Are online casinos legal in Maryland?
No. There are no online casinos in Maryland. The only options that you can pursue are the sweepstakes casinos mentioned above. Chumba Casino has a terrific selection of slot titles and table games available. LuckyLand Slots has a smaller selection, but each game is beautifully rendered in exquisite detail. Funzpoints has a fun vibe running through its games, and there are even some keno options available for players there. For the most part, the games and table games on these sites are identical to the ones you’d find in a true online casino.
Can you play online slot machines in Maryland?
No. There are no legal options to play slot games for real money in Maryland at this time. In fact, from a purely technical point of view, there are no slot games whatsoever in Maryland — only video lottery terminals.
Are there legal online poker rooms in Maryland?
No. As is the case with other types of online gambling, online poker is not legal in Maryland. Don’t believe it if you read something different elsewhere.
The best option for people who want to play online poker in Maryland is Global Poker. Global Poker, like its sister sites Chumba and LuckyLand, is a sweepstakes site that offers cash poker prizes for free. Global Poker is functionally identical to any poker site you could find in a state that allows real money online poker.
Will Maryland regulate online casinos in the future?
Almost certainly. In some regards, Maryland already regulates online gambling. As we mentioned, if you’re talking about any type of gambling whatsoever, you already have the option to bet on horse races and play daily fantasy sports online in Maryland right now. Both types of gambling are legal. However, if you mean online casinos, sportsbooks or poker, then the answer is a bit trickier.
The clearest opportunity for online gambling expansion in Maryland is with sports betting. A bill (HB940) that passed the Maryland House of Representatives calls for retail and online sports betting. There is no significant pushback against the idea of sports betting itself, and plenty of different plans from stakeholders.
Now, making something legal doesn’t always wish it into existence, especially if it creates a new industry out of thin air. The Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency will have to create regulations to license and manage any online gambling in the state, and that process takes, at minimum, a month or two.
As for online casino gambling and online poker rooms, legal online sportsbooks could be a good omen for things to come. The Maryland General Assembly has already demonstrated its openness to gambling expansion in the past few years — HB940 was certainly not the first sports betting bill that lawmakers proposed or considered. So, although nothing is on the table just yet, there is reason for hope if you are an online casino gambling fan.
Below is a table of likely operators and online casino brands based upon the companies that already have a foothold in the state.
|Caesars Entertainment||Horseshoe Casino Baltimore||Caesars, 888, WSOP|
|Penn National Gaming||Hollywood Casino Perryville||Barstool, Hollywood|
|Golden Entertainment||Rocky Gap Casino Resort||Unknown|
|MGM Resorts International||MGM National Harbor||BetMGM|
|Churchill Downs||Ocean Downs||TwinSpires (BetAmerica)|
|Cordish Companies||Maryland Live! Casino||Unknown|
Who regulates online gambling in Maryland?
Online casino gambling is not legal in Maryland yet, but the regulator will almost certainly be the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Although it’s conceivable that the Maryland Racing Commission could be the regulator, it doesn’t make much sense.
Legal online casinos vs. offshore sites
If you’ve read this far, you’ve seen us describe online gambling as not legal in Maryland. And yet, there are online casinos accepting Maryland players right now. However, these casinos are based offshore. What’s the difference?
In a nutshell, Maryland doesn’t license or operate any online gambling site. Sweepstakes sites are the only option for online gambling. Those sites that do let Maryland players play slots for real money are offshore. Offshore sites exist outside the purview of both Maryland and US law. As such, they do not necessarily have to operate under the same standards or level of oversight as a regulated site. Gambling on an offshore site comes with several risks:
- Regulation: Any site operating outside the US may claim they are licensed. However, it’s unclear what type of authority the offshore agencies have on the sites.
- Trust and reliability: Another problem is the fact that you cannot really be sure about the legitimacy of the sites themselves. It boils down to wondering,”Is your money safe?” You have no way to know who actually owns the sites in question and what their track record is. Payment problems are common at a lot of offshore online gambling sites.
- Safety: Hand in hand with trusting the site is knowing that your sensitive information is safe. Even if you find a site that operates honorably and with US-style business practices, you cannot be certain that your information is completely secure. Your personal information and banking information are stored on the site, and it is absolutely vital that the sites have solid security measures.
The best thing to do is stick to the legal options in the state of Maryland.
Legal gambling in Maryland
Although Maryland has gone back and forth about gambling over the years, there is no doubt that the state has plenty of options these days: full-service casinos, racetracks and off-track betting locations. Furthermore, Maryland voters have already approved an expansion into sports betting, and the only delay is the wait for the actual laws to bring the industry to life. So, despite its waffling on the issue in the past, the state appears to be firmly in favor of legal gambling. Here are all the ways to play while you enjoy a crab cake:
- Casino gaming
- Pari-mutuel betting (horse racing)
- Online horse betting
- Daily fantasy sports
- Charitable games
- Home poker or mahjong games
Many states have their own quirks when it comes to gambling, and Maryland is no exception. One of the big idiosyncrasies about the state’s offerings is that there are no true slot machines in the state. All the “slot machines” that you see in Maryland casinos are actually video lottery terminals. However, in terms of their operation, there really isn’t much difference between VLTs and slot machines, and even the state gambling commission calls them slot machines at times.
Another unusual facet of legal gambling in Maryland is that the issuing of permits for charitable gaming is done at the county level, rather than the state level. This means that bingo halls and raffles will deal with their own local governments, rather than anyone in Annapolis. Finally, in 2016, Maryland took the unusual step of passing a law specifically to authorize Marylanders to play poker games at home. The law only designates two games as acceptable — poker and mahjong. We were unaware that mahjong had such a rabid following in the Old Line State, but the powerful mahjong lobby apparently did its job when the time came.
How old do you have to be to gamble in Maryland?
The legal gambling age for all gambling locations in Maryland is 21. However, as is often the case, players must only be 18 in order to play lottery games, play bingo, or wager on horse races.
Does Maryland have any casinos?
Yes. Maryland is home to six casinos. Maryland citizens voted to authorize the placement of slot-like machines in the state in 2008, then voted to expand to table games in 2012. Here are the casinos in Maryland along with all other in-person gambling locations including racetracks and OTBs:
|Name||Address||Phone Number||Type||Owner/Operator||Live Poker?|
|Fair Hill Races||402 Fair Hill Dr, Elkton, MD 21921||(410) 398-2578||Track||Cecil County Breeders' Fair, Inc.||n/a|
|Greenmount Station||1631 N Main St #4, Hampstead, MD 21074||(410) 239-0063||OTB||Greenmount Station||n/a|
|Hollywood Casino Perryville||1201 Chesapeake Overlook Pkwy, Perryville, MD 21903||(410) 378-8500||Casino/OTB||Penn National Gaming||Y|
|Horseshoe Baltimore Casino||1525 Russell St, Baltimore, MD 21230||(844) 777-7463||Casino/OTB||Caesars Entertainment||Y|
|Laurel Park||198 Laurel Race Track Rd, Laurel, MD 20725||(301) 725-0400||Track||Stronach Group||n/a|
|Live! Casino Hotel Maryland||7002 Arundel Mills Cir, Hanover, MD 21076||(443) 842-7000||Casino||Cordish Companies||Y|
|MGM National Harbor||101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745||(844) 646-6847||Casino/OTB||MGM Resorts International||Y|
|Ocean Downs Casino||10218 Racetrack Rd, Berlin, MD 21811||(410) 641-0600||Racino||Churchill Downs||N|
|Pimlico Race Course||5201 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215||(410) 542-9400||Track/OTB||Stronach Group||n/a|
|Riverboat on the Potomac||301 Beach Terrace, Colonial Beach, VA 22443||(804) 224-7055||OTB||Tom and Penny Flanagan||n/a|
|Rocky Gap Casino||16701 Lakeview Rd NE, Flintstone, MD 21530||(301) 784-8400||Casino||Golden Entertainment||N|
|Rosecroft Raceway||6336 Rosecroft Dr, Fort Washington, MD 20744||(301) 567-4500||Track||Stronach Group||n/a|
|Timonium Fair Grounds||2200 York Road, Timonium, Maryland 21093||(410) 252-0200||Track/OTB||Maryland State Fair & Agricultural Society, Inc.||n/a|
Types of games at Maryland casinos
With casinos representing companies like MGM and Penn National, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of games to play at Maryland casinos. For the sake of simplicity, we’re listing slots as one of the games, even though they’re VLTs. The technicality isn’t worth the trouble of explaining once again.
- Video poker
- Blackjack with various side bets
- Casino War
- Fortune Pai Gow Poker
- Three Card Poker
- Four Card Poker
- Crapless Craps
- Spanish 21
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Mississippi Stud
- Let It Ride
- Criss Cross Poker
- Chase the Flush
- Big Six
- Heads-Up Poker
- Live poker
- Pari-mutuel betting on simulcast races
- Lottery games
Horse racing in Maryland
Legal gambling in Maryland predates the formation of the United States by no less than 33 years in the form of horse racing. The Maryland Jockey Club, an organization to manage horse racing in the colony-turned-state, was founded in Annapolis in 1743. The MJC remains in some capacity to this day and is the oldest continuously operating sports organization in the United States. Though the luster of horse racing has diminished in Maryland (as it has elsewhere), the MJC’s near 300 years of service underlines the fundamental relationship that Marylanders have with horse racing.
Of course, Maryland’s position as one of the premier locations for horse racing in the US is cemented by the presence of its most famous racetrack, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Each May, thousands of horse racing fans stream into Maryland to see the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. In fact, the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” is the second-most-attended horse race in the US after the Kentucky Derby.
Pimlico is one of six horse racing facilities in Maryland. Four venues are thoroughbred tracks, while the remaining two offer harness races. Maryland’s six tracks are as follows:
- Fair Hill Races (thoroughbred)
- Laurel Park (thoroughbred)
- Ocean Downs (harness)
- Pimlico Race Course (thoroughbred)
- Rosecroft Raceway (harness)
- Timonium Race Course (thoroughbred)
Can I bet on horse racing in Maryland?
Yes. Parimutuel wagering is available at all six racetracks. In addition, both Pimlico and Timonium serve as off-track betting locations when there is no live racing available. Ocean Downs is the only true racino of the bunch and is also one of the six casino locations in Maryland.
Three of the other casinos in the state house off-track betting parlors as well. You can place wagers on simulcast racing at Hollywood Casino Perryville, Horseshoe Baltimore, and MGM National Harbor. Maryland also has two standalone OTBs — Greenmount Station in Hampstead and Riverboat on the Potomac in Colonial Beach.
Like a majority of states, Maryland allows its inhabitants to wager on horse races online, too. Although there are several major horse betting sites available in Maryland, TVG is likely the best option. No other site offers nearly the level of service as TVG. In addition to its comprehensive betting options, it also has a wealth of resources that you can use to educate yourself and inform your handicapping. Best of all, TVG is a 24-hour broadcast network dedicated to horse betting — the only one of its kind in the US. At any time, day or night, you can log into TVG and pick up meaningful and useful tips about races around the country.
Long story short, there are plenty of options for betting on horse racing in Maryland. Given that horse racing has existed in Maryland longer than the US itself, it’s a safe bet that horse racing will always be a feature of the Maryland landscape. With online betting, you don’t even have to leave your house to take part.
History of gambling in Maryland
It is unlikely that Maryland comes to mind when most people think about gambling. The Old Line State is more traditionally associated with crab cakes, the Chesapeake Bay and the US Naval Academy. Sharper-minded folk might think about the Preakness Stakes. However, Maryland has both a wealth of options for today’s inhabitants and a unique history when it comes to wagering. In fact, Maryland is one of the few places to have hosted legal gambling, banned legal gambling, then reintroduced it. In short, Maryland has a lengthy relationship with games of chance.
Here is a brief history of key dates in Maryland gambling.
- 1947: Although there are reports that legal slot gambling existed in Maryland as early as 1943, there is no doubt that several counties in the southern portion of the state have machines up and running four years later. The legalization and operation are in defiance of a governor’s veto at the time, but it appears to work. Anne Arundel, Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties collectively operate roughly 5,000 legal slot machines in barbershops, bars, laundromats and other retail stores. The activity reaches such a fever pitch that Charles County’s Waldorf is known as “Little Vegas,” and the town’s slot machine revenue outpaces that of Las Vegas itself.
- 1968: After 21 years of frenzied slot gambling in the southern portion of the state, gambling opponents such as Maryland clergy, philosophically opposed journalists and, notably, Gov. Millard Tawes increase their efforts to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to act on the slot craze. The Legislature responds and bans slot machines in June 1968. However, it isn’t so simple as passing a vote. Needless to say, representatives from those southern counties are dismayed at the lost revenue. So, in order to buy their acquiescence, legislators have to offer something in return. That something is, ultimately, the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge, which connects Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
- 1972: Of course, making something illegal does not make the desire for it go away. Sympathetic lawmakers introduce a slate of bills to bring slot gambling back to Maryland in the years that follow the 1968 ban. The sudden void in gambling options is at least partially responsible for the overwhelming voter approval for a state lottery in 1972. The Maryland State Lottery Exception, Question 2 passes its referendum by a whopping 77%-23% margin, and reports indicate that the discrepancy is even starker in some areas of Maryland. The first lottery tickets go on sale the following year and are immediately gobbled up. By 1990, the Washington Post reports that lottery spending in Maryland is “among the nation’s leaders in per capita receipts.” The feverish nature of lottery purchasing in the state is also part of the reason that the notion of reintroducing slot machines never fully dies.
- 2008: Though it takes nearly 40 years, slot machines make their triumphant return to Maryland in 2008 … in a manner of speaking. Technically, the machines that Maryland voters approved in five counties in the state are video lottery terminals. So, while they look and act like slot machines, they are actually under the purview of lottery officials. Of course, none of that specificity matters to residents in the city of Baltimore and Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties. Each area now looks forward to a casino location. The first casino to open is the Hollywood Casino Perryville, which cuts the ribbon in September 2010. The other four properties launch by August 2014.
- 2012: In the midst of all this expansion, Maryland voters decide that they want even more gambling options. So, in November 2012, they vote to authorize the placement of table games in the five casinos either open or in development. In addition, each casino location is now permitted to operate around the clock, instead of closing in the wee hours. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the vote also allows for a sixth casino location to develop in Prince George’s County. This venue ultimately becomes the MGM National Harbor, which opens for business in December 2016. Thus, in eight short years, six full-service casinos open in Maryland.
- 2020: Maryland voters appear to have the same attitude toward gambling expansions that the tattooed have about getting more ink — there’s no reason to stop now. Two years after the state’s sixth casino opened its doors, the US Supreme Court overturns a federal sports betting ban. It’s no surprise when Maryland voters overwhelmingly authorize wagering on sporting events on a referendum in November 2020. The only thing between Marylanders and sports betting now is the actual law and regulation to govern it. Based upon the activities in the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly, it’s a safe bet that it won’t be long.
Responsible gambling in Maryland
As triumphant as Maryland’s return to gambling in the last few years has been, it has come with an unfortunate cost. Like any other place with gambling, Maryland is home to problem gamblers. Thankfully, Maryland has plenty of dedicated resources to help gambling addicts get on the road to recovery.
There are numerous online resources to explore if you are wondering if you have a problem. And regardless of whether you are worried or merely curious, it’s good to know what options are available in Maryland. Here are the things you can do if you or someone you love might be hurting:
- Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling: This organization is a coalition of several state agencies in Maryland, which combine their forces. The alliance website includes a comprehensive list of recovery counselors in the state, and gambling therapy is available at no cost to Maryland residents, regardless of their insurance or financial status. In addition, the alliance maintains a 24/7 helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER, which can connect problem gamblers or their families with trained counselors who can provide resources and assistance. Finally, because the alliance is a state government agency coalition, it is also possible to access the Maryland Voluntary Exclusion Program here.
- The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling: This program, which is a division of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is another consolidated resource for problem gambling in the Old Line State. You can find quizzes, resources for people in all phases of life (teens, adults, parents, seniors and co-workers), support group information, and connections for therapy providers in the state. The Maryland Council on Problem Gambling also functions in association with this program. Finally, in addition to links for 1-800-GAMBLER, the center also maintains its own helpline at 1-677-214-2120.
Maryland’s voluntary exclusion program
You can also reach out to the support group Gamblers Anonymous. Chapters of GA meet weekly (or more often) all over Maryland, and there’s usually a meeting near your home or office. Family members who are dealing with a gambling-addicted loved one have their own support group, GAM-ANON.
Finally, the state of Maryland offers a voluntary exclusion program for those who recognize that, regardless of any other interventions, they simply cannot stop gambling. Those who find themselves in that position can file an application with the state to prevent them from entering any gambling venue in the state lawfully. If you’re in the program and still gamble, you can find yourself subject to a criminal citation, fined and potentially jailed. Once on the list, you cannot remove yourself for at least two years, and a state therapist will have to pronounce you fit and healthy before your application for removal will be approved. In some cases, placement in the program is permanent.