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Maryland lawmakers discussed an online casino gaming bill Wednesday, the first step toward what could be another significant iGaming legalization market.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard the bill Wednesday. Since 2008, Maryland has opened six commercial casinos as well as launched retail and mobile sportsbooks.

“We are missing one vital respect to casino gaming,” said Sen. Ron Watson, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The proposal would allow Maryland to enter into online player liquidity-sharing agreements with other legal iGaming states. Watson said legal iCasino market could generate nearly $100m in annual tax revenue at market maturity.

Lawmakers did not take a vote, but further action could come in the coming weeks.

Maryland gaming significance

Maryland would be both a significant tangible and symbolic step forward in the slow expansion of regulated online casino gaming.

Maryland has the highest per capita income level of any state. It also shares a population center with Virginia and Washington DC, two jurisdictions unlikely to legalize online casino gaming in the coming years, additional factors that could make it one of the nation’s strongest per capita iCasino markets.

The Old Line State also has a growing sports betting market, which would create a logical stepping stone for online casino gaming.

FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, the three US market share leaders by combined iCasino and sports betting market share, are already live in the state. MGM operates the state’s highest-grossing casino, MGM National Harbor, and could have similar success with its online casino platform, which has the highest gross gaming revenue of any national operator.

The current bill only allows six online casino licenses, partnered with each of the state’s casinos. Officials from DraftKings, which has no sports betting partnership with any of the casinos, testified in favor of the bill Wednesday with the caveat that licensing opportunities be expanded.

At least 10 other mobile sportsbooks are either live in the state or are et to start taking bets in the coming months. That includes other leading national brands Caesars, Barstool, PointsBet, BetRivers and Betfred, which are all live now. Bally Bet, WynnBet, SuperBook, Fanatics and locally-focused start-up Crab Bet will likely do so in the coming months.

If legalized, Maryland would help fill in the Mid-Atlantic online casino gaming map. Three of the four full, competitive iGaming markets, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey, either border Maryland or are a short drive (Michigan is the other). Delaware, which offers one iCasino option through its state lottery, also borders Maryland.

A Maryland iCasino market could also spark further interest in the handful of states considering legislation this year. New York, Illinois, Indiana and New Hampshire have also introduced iCasino bills in 2023.

Work remains

Maryland iCasino legalization faces the same challenges as many other states.

Though more than 30 states have passed some form of sports betting authorization legislation, only six have online slots or table games (Nevada allows real money online poker). Opponents worry that legal casino gaming, which could allow users to bet anywhere within state lines at virtually any time, could spark gambling addiction and other societal harms.

Proponents have argued that these offerings are available already without the protections of a regulated market. Gaming stakeholders and operators have, not surprisingly, been among the leading advocates for iCasino legalization.

The more than 30 US jurisdictions offering legal sportsbooks combined to generate $7.5bn in operator revenue in 2022. The seven legal iGaming jurisdictions generated more than $5bn during that same time.

Online casino gaming operators increased revenue by more than 35% year-over-year between 2021 and 2022 despite no new state launches.

Before legal iCasino gaming could begin, at least three-fifths of lawmakers in both the Senate and House must pass identical versions of the same bill. It would also require voter approval on the 2024 ballot.

Maryland voters approved both the brick-and-mortar casinos and sportsbooks on previous ballot measures.