Maryland held the first hearing of its online casino bill on Wednesday and its legislature widely supported it. Some people asked the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to incorporate other businesses in the state's online casino licenses besides casinos.
A similar move led to the legalization of sports gambling in Maryland. Senator Ron Watson introduced the iGaming bill anticipating this response.
He is part of the legislature's black caucus and will team up with other black citizens to be included in the bill. Minority-owned business owners backed SB 267.
What Prompted Minority-Owned Enterprises to Seek Inclusion in the Casino Bill?
The state's initial sports betting law restricted gambling licenses to casinos only. But, it later included off-track gambling parlors in the law. Yet, four OTBs sought access to its online casino market in the latest hearing.
Antonio Jones, Riverboat on the Potomac's managing partner, stated that the OTB can run online with a sports gambling license. Alyse Cohen, Long Shot's OTB, and Sportsbook's owner added that the four OTBs comprise minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) and women-owned businesses. She said that Maryland was keen to support minority groups in the past as it is one of the country's most diverse states.
The investor stated that minorities and women's equity inclusion is lost when the state limits casino operators to increasing their online presence. She believes that Maryland has to treat OTBs fairly to continue their operations. It includes adding them to online casino regulation.
DraftKings requested the Senate committee through Frank Boston III to grant Maryland's non-casino gaming investors more access to its market. He said that limiting gaming licenses to casinos prevents the state from capitalizing on its revenue potential.
How Did Senator Watson Respond to Stakeholders?
Sen. Watson promised to engage MBEs for all stakeholders to benefit from the state's iGaming industry. He had discussions with minority communities that excluded some minority companies.
Maryland's Huge iGaming Revenue's Potential
The lawmaker attached a fiscal note to his iGaming bill that forecasts that local online casinos can earn the state $97 million in annual tax revenue in five years. Jon Mandel, a Sports Betting Alliance representative, said that they predicted online casinos could rake in $102.9 million in the first year of operation and $150.6 million annually by the fifth year.
Kerry Watson from MGM Resorts International said that Detroit's gaming venues set a new revenue record in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the same period in which Michigan launched online casinos. Maryland is the fourth state with the highest gaming revenue from casinos and iGaming will increase it further.
Senator J.B. Jennings sought clarification on the source of the extra revenue. He claimed that gamblers' losses would be channeled to the education trust fund.
Maryland's Attorney General (AG) gave Sen. Watson his opinion about the iGaming legislation before he filed it. He believes online casinos are part of the local gambling market's expansion. Thus, a constitutional amendment is necessary to legalize online casinos.
Still, the majority of the voters have to support the amendment in a November 2024 ballot referendum. This gives lawmakers more time to deliberate on online casinos.