Monday afternoon is the deadline for consultants to submit bids to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency for an iGaming study. Proponents of legalizing Maryland online casinos hope the study will help shape a measure that lets voters decide next year if they want to legalize iGaming in the state.
Lottery officials expect to award the contract soon, perhaps around the end of the month. From there, the winning bidder will have until Nov. 15 to submit a report to the state House and Senate budget committees. Lawmakers included the study in the fiscal year 2024 budget passed this year.
The report is expected to inform lawmakers about the projected size of an iGaming market in the Old Line State and its potential impact on other gaming operations in a state with legal Maryland sports betting plus commercial casinos. State officials also want to know how big the illegal iGaming market is in Maryland and how legalized online casinos could attract those players to a regulated market.
Watson Will Try Again In 2024
BetMaryland spoke with State Sen. Ron Watson, D-Bowie, last week at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States Summer Meeting in Denver, regarding where iGaming stands in the General Assembly. Watson has been a long-time proponent of iGaming. He sponsored a bill in this year’s session that did not make it out of a committee.
Watson said the study will do two things. It will help craft a bill for next year’s session and “level-set” lawmakers on iGaming.
The level-setting is important. Watson recalled a previous attempt he made that was rebuffed by a House leader.
“I was told by the chair of Ways and Means at the time, ‘What do we need that for? We already got sports betting,’” Watson said, referencing online Maryland betting apps. “They didn’t understand geofencing. They didn’t understand the technology involved, nor what it brought to the table. So once I became a senator, I put the bill back up, and we were able to at least get the study kicked off.”
The consultant picked to develop the report will only have a little more than three months to craft it. But Watson said the findings and the feedback will help proponents put “the real meat and potatoes on a bill that we expect to pass.” That includes determining a licensing structure, the number of licenses available, the fee for a license and whether licenses are awarded to just brick-and-mortar venues or if other entities can participate.
Because it’s a gaming expansion measure, any online casino bill would require passage through a referendum that would be part of the November 2024 election.
“When it passes, because it will, we look forward to being able to implement it in 2025,” Watson said.
Maryland On iGaming Prospects List
While there are only seven iGaming states in the U.S., they are concentrated mostly in the mid-Atlantic. Because of that, Maryland is close to four states that offer it: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Gaming industry leaders are also somewhat bullish on Maryland’s chances.
Howard Glaser, the global head of government affairs and legislative counsel for Light & Wonder (formerly Scientific Games Corp.), suggested Maryland as a candidate for passage next year as he spoke Friday in an iGaming breakout session at the NCLGS conference. Other possibilities, he said, include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana and New York.
“I can’t tell you which of those states is going to pass iGaming next, but that’s the group,” he said. “Between one and some number next year are going to pass iGaming. Whether it’s one, two, three, I don’t know, but they will move because you can’t argue with the growth.”
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