Maryland State Senator plans to drop new iGaming bill

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: January 14, 2024 5:01 pm EST

Maryland State Senator Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s County) has announced his plans to introduce iGaming legislation as a means to help fill a $400 million deficit in his state’s budgetary coffers. The bill would include online poker, which is already legal in three states to Maryland’s immediate north — Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The news of Watson’s new internet-gambling measure emerged last week via local outlets in the state, though Maryland’s official legislation tracker did not report the bill as dropped as of today. Wednesday marked the first official day of Maryland’s 2024 legislation session, typically resulting in a brief backload of newly filed bills.

The pending bill marks the second successive year Sen. Watson will have sponsored an online-gambling measure. He sponsored SB 267 in July 2023; the bill was assigned to the state’s Senate Budget and Taxation Hearing where it received a hearing but languished without an official vote.

High tax rate in 2024 version of bill

The recent reports on the bills’s looming introduction declare that one difference from the 2023 version is a sharp increase in the tax rate, which declared that 15% of the “proceeds” would go to the state. The latest reports declare that the 2024 edition of the bill will triple that, to either 46.0% or 46.5%.

The likeliest reason for such a sharp increase appears to be to deflect criticism from the state’s live casino venues, who have expressed the timeworn but unrealized concerns that online gaming would cannabilize their existing brick-and-mortar operations. One outlet quoted Watson as declaring why the rate was so sharply boosted, “Because the [online] casinos can afford it. The margins are huge because there is no overhead.”

Featured image source: Visit Fort McHenry