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Maryland Online Casino Hopes Die With State Budget Exclusion

Written By Matthew Kredell | Updated:
Maryland state capitol

The Maryland legislature completed budget negotiations Wednesday, leaving out online casino as expected.

The House passed Maryland online casino bill HB1319 and included online casinos in its budget proposal. But Senate leadership made clear heading into budget discussions that online casinos were a non-starter.

There was one last chance for online casino to get a victory this year if lawmakers moved just the referendum to put the question of legalization in front of voters in November. Then legislators can come back and work out the implementation details next year rather than needing to wait for the 2026 general election.

But Sen. Ron Watson told PlayUSA on Monday that the Maryland legislature would adjourn Monday without passing the referendum.

Why Maryland online casino legislation failed

Maryland entered the year as PlayUSA’s favorite state to legalize online casinos, although with odds less than 50%.

But some major obstacles emerged:

  • Not all casinos were on board.
  • Labor unions strongly opposed.
  • Senate didn’t see urgency in educational funding.

Two of Maryland’s six casinos opposed Maryland online casinos. Maryland Live! and Ocean Downs Casino expressed concerns about cannibalization and job loss.

Arundel County, where Maryland Live! is located, also funded a study backing up the cannibalization concerns. PlayUSA went straight to regulators in states with legal online casinos to find out if they had seen cannibalization.

Watson previously lamented the casino cannibalization claims to PlayUSA:

“I’ve told colleagues, as did Del. [Vanessa] Atterbeary in the House, that there haven’t been any proven cases of cannibalization in any state that has iGaming. Unfortunately, Maryland Live! is saying there is cannibalization and job loss when the fact is that they offer online casino in Pennsylvania and are looking to hire more workers at Philadelphia Live!”

At the House hearing on iGaming, more than 100 labor members showed up in matching shirts to oppose the bill. Many shared their stories and fears that iCasino would take their jobs.

Atterbeary always pushed HB1319 with educational funding in mind. Maryland needs funding for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future beyond 2027. The House saw Maryland online casino as the solution. A PlayUSA analysis showed that online casinos could bring $1 billion to the state by 2029.

Watson told PlayUSA that the Senate wasn’t as forward-thinking.

“The House is being proactive in saying we need to take action now because, even though we have a balanced budget, this fiscal need exists and we need to start capturing that revenue today. The Senate recognizes the fiscal challenges ahead but believes we’ve passed a balanced budget and can revisit this next year.”

What’s next for Maryland online casino

Despite the opposition from two casinos and labor unions, the Maryland House passed online casino legislation.

That’s a significant step that shows fears of cannibalization and job loss aren’t insurmountable when legislators have a funding priority.

And getting an online casino bill through any legislative chamber is a rare feat. Just Rhode Island and Connecticut have posted successful online casino votes in recent years.

So legislators can return in 2025 with positive momentum for Maryland online casinos. But there might not be urgency to pass legislation in the first year of a two-year session, particularly when the legislation requires a constitutional amendment that can’t go in front of voters until the end of the following year.

Maryland online casino could launch in 2027 if Senate leadership sees it as the solution for funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in 2028 and beyond.

Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP file photo
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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