·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


Is Maryland Recognizing the Opportunity from Online Gambling Legalization?

— January 26, 2021

With less than a dozen states allowing online gambling, Maryland is not the only state that has yet to fully realize the potential of this type of betting.

Seeing as how every state has the power to form its own regulations when it comes to gambling, what changes can we expect in the near future when it comes to Maryland? Has the Free State realized the potential that legalizing online gambling comes with?

History of gambling in the USA and Maryland

The history of gambling in the USA goes back to the colonial period, with the most common types being horse racing and lotteries. In the mid-18th century, gambling was denounced as sinful by the Baptists and Methodists and in 1769, the British Crown placed a restriction on lotteries.

Gambling was soon made illegal and operators moved to New Orleans and other safe havens as well as to riverboats where the only law was the captain. By the 1850s, San Francisco replaced The Big Easy as the gambling capital of the USA but California started strengthening its laws so the games moved underground. During the Prohibition era, slot machines, betting parlors, and gambling houses all flourished.

Then, in 1908, pari-mutuel betting was introduced, which slowly helped rebuild the horse betting industry. During the Great Depression, some forms of bingo were legalized in order to help churches and charities raise money. While most other types of gambling remained illegal, there were horse race tracks opened in 21 states in the 1930s.

In 1931, Nevada made most forms of gambling legal and after World War II, Las Vegas rapidly developed and became the gambling center of the country. Southern Maryland had legally operated slot machines between 1943 and 1968, while Atlantic City legalized gambling in 1977. 1979 saw the first reservation-based casino open. More and more areas started legalizing the practice which led to Congress passing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 which was in place until 2018. PASPA tried to curb the effects of gambling on sporting events but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

With PASPA gone, states were finally able to decide for themselves whether they want to make gambling legal or not. Since then, Maryland has legalized charitable gambling, lotteries, commercial gambling, pari-mutuel, and racetrack betting while online and sports betting are still illegal.

The current state of gambling in Maryland

There are currently six land-based casinos in Maryland. Their combined total revenue in 2019 was more than $1.75 billion, which is an improvement from the previous year. According to statistics, Slots, Roulette, Poker, and Blackjack are the most played games. Roulette is known for its long history, Poker is widely favored by skilled players, while Blackjack features a lot in popular culture. As for slots, as we can learn from BestOddsSlots, they require a completely different approach than table games. Slots are fully randomized, easy to play and win, and the result doesn’t depend on a player’s individual skills, but on complete luck. That is the reason for their massive popularity.

Casino slot machines
Casino slot machines; image courtesy of stokpic via Pixabay,

When it comes to online casinos, they are not yet legal even though the residents do have a few options if they want to gamble from home. There are legal websites where placing pari-mutuel wagers for horse and greyhound racing is permitted. Then, online fantasy sports betting and skill games are also legal. For every other form of online gambling, Maryland residents need to opt for out-of-the-state options.

The future of gambling and betting in the state

In terms of the future, it’s important to note that sports betting might be available as soon as 2021, as Marylanders have overwhelmingly voted yes on the referendum concerning this topic. Whether it will be possible only at brick-and-mortar locations or online as well is yet to be decided. Considering the success that New Jersey and Pennsylvania have had in terms of mobile betting, it is a huge opportunity that Maryland cannot overlook, especially when we take into account how this year has inspired many other industries to make the most of the online approach to business.

The economic opportunity of legalization

According to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, sports betting has the potential to generate up to $20 million per year. While there are no numbers for the potential of online gambling, lawmakers should look for a way to mimic New Jersey’s success in this field, seeing as how the introduction of online gambling had a positive impact on the economy, in more ways than one. From 2013 to 2018, the online gambling industry in NJ generated more jobs, more money in tax revenue, and more money for employee wages.

With less than a dozen states allowing online gambling, Maryland is not the only state that has yet to fully realize the potential of this type of betting. With sports betting opportunities near, it only remains to be seen whether it will be allowed online or not.

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