Maryland iGaming measure passes House, moves to state's Senate

Maryland National Harbor MGM
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: March 17, 2024 02:35 PDT

The chances that Maryland will become the first and perhaps only US state to legalize online poker in 2024 increased on Saturday when the state's House of Delegates passed an iGaming measure authorizing several forms of casino-style online gaming, including poker. Forced into a long weekend session by a looming "crossover" deadline on Monday, House members considered HB 1319, one of several dozen measures receiving last-minute attention.

HB 1319, sponsored by Rep. Vanessa Atterbeary, cleared a House Ways and Means Committee vote by a 15-7 margin on Wednesday. That successful vote returned the bill to the full House floor for weekend consideration. After several amendments were proposed -- most of which were poison-pill additions offered by opponents designed to scuttle support for the measure -- HB 1319 passed late Saturday afternoon by a 92-43 tally, or roughly the same 70-30 margin as seen in the midweek committee vote.

Atterbeary's HB 1319 was one of several active iGaming measures under discussion when two hearings on various iGaming topics were conducted in the last days of February and is the only one to date to pass a full floor vote. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it will have to receive attention in the next few weeks. A Senate passage would move the bill to the desk of Maryland Governor Wes Moore for final approval.

Failed amendments offered cumbersome restrictions

Five separate amendments were proposed for the HB 1319 before its full House vote, four of which were unwieldly proposals that would have hampered iGaming operations in various ways. Among the failed amendments were proposals to require in-person registration for creating an account, and to only allow deposits to be made in the same manner.

Another failed amendment would've required a two-factor-authentication process every time a user logged on to his or her account. The fourth failed amendment proposed a $5 limit on any single wager, and a $100 limit on deposits made in any 24-hour period. In practice, those caps would have made online poker little more than a micro-stakes service for Marylanders had the amendment been approved.

Former PPA director John Pappas offers commentary

Online commentary on the bill's progress toward a vote brought out a well-known name from poker's past, former Poker Players Alliance (PPA) director John Pappas. Pappas, an independent, DC-based lobbyist, was tracking the proceedings and posting occasional highlights to X/Twitter.

Pappas's comment about the amendment to require in-person deposits to online accounts drew just a touch of derision:

In the end. all four "hostile" proposed amendments quickly failed, and Pappas posted the successful vote for the bill as a whole: