Maryland Online Casino Contract Awarded In Latest Step Toward iGaming

Maryland Online Casino Contract Awarded In Latest Step Toward iGaming
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The prospect of Marylanders being able to play slot machines, casino table games and peer-to-peer poker on their own computers and mobile devices took a step forward on Thursday.

The Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Commission voted unanimously to award a Maryland online casinos contract to a consulting company, The Innovation Group, to study the implications of iGaming in the state.

The Innovation Group was recommended to the commission by Lottery & Gaming staff after the staff reviewed proposals from five bidding companies. The Innovation Group, with an office in New Orleans as well as other locales, was the highest ranked bidder in a Technical ranking. It was the third ranked bidder on price, which was $86,000.

Bids are considered first in a Technical Rank, then on their Financial Proposal. James Nielsen, Deputy Director and COO of Lottery & Gaming, said that Innovation Group’s higher technical ranking outweighed the relatively small price differences among the bids.

This is the latest step in a state that has had a successful Maryland sports betting operation.

Consulting Deal Necessary Step

The appointment of a consulting company became necessary after the Budget Committees of the Maryland General Assembly directed the Lottery & Gaming Control Agency to prepare a report on iGaming.

In Nielsen’s presentation to the commission, he said, “The General Assembly is generally interested in understanding the current regulatory landscape for iGaming; the estimated market in Maryland; the potential economic impact of legal regulated iGaming on Maryland’s brick-and-mortar casinos, other gaming venues, and the MLGCA; the experience of other states; methods to transition individuals from the illegal iGaming market to the legal market; and the impact on problem gambling. The iGaming report is intended to help the General Assembly in this regard.”

In the 2023 General Assembly session, there was legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Watson and state Sen. Nancy King that would have set the stage to allowing iGaming. That legislation didn’t get much traction. If such legislation was passed, the question would have to go to the voters in a referendum. Watson, in particular, has been public in advocating for iGaming.

The study that will be prepared by The Innovation Group will be presented to the legislature’s Budget Committees no later than Nov. 15. Presumably, the information in the report will form the basis for discussion on iGaming in the 2024 General Assembly.

If the General Assembly were to pass legislation that puts an iGaming question on the November 2024 ballot and Gov. Wes Moore signs it, voters would get their say at the ballot box. Given the time it takes to hammer out regulations, the soonest Maryland could have iGaming is sometime in 2025.

Maryland Sports Betting Among Options

Currently, the state has six brick-and-mortar casinos, horse racing, the lottery, and bingo in addition to its mobile Maryland betting apps and retail sports wagering.

While sports wagering has spread across the country in recent years and more than two dozen states have online sports betting, iGaming has moved much slower. States that have legalized iGaming are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut. Rhode Island has made it legal but has yet to launch. Nevada has internet poker only.

In addition to awarding the study contract, the commission voted on a number of amendments to gaming regulations.

Included in those was crafting regulations for the licensing of independent evaluators who would primarily evaluate online sports wagering content. However, it does not mean that state regulators themselves would be evaluating such content.

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A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the World Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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