The State of Affairs of the Maryland Gambling Industry - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The State of Affairs of the Maryland Gambling Industry

In the U.S. at large, gambling is dominated by powerhouses like Las Vegas and Atlantic City that have long drawn visitors to their sprawling casinos doubling as entertainment complexes. The economic possibilities and potential drawbacks of the casino model are recognized on a state to state basis. The gambling industry as a whole has gained new traction due to the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing individual states to legalize sports betting, shining a spotlight on how this will be applied from one state to another.

In Maryland, the industry is not so straightforward, though recent legislation has already opened the doors to casinos in the wake of several rulings in gambling’s favor There are currently six land-based casinos in Maryland, and residents can also now legally take advantage of pastimes like fantasy sports betting and horse racing. Could online gaming and live sports betting be next? Here’s a closer look at what’s currently permitted and the trends leading the future of this ever-changing industry.

Maryland’s Land-Based Casinos

One needs to look no further than Maryland’s thriving casinos to see the growth in its gambling industry. After the 2008 referendum, voters approved the legalization of slot machines which were added to its five land-based facilities. In 2012, table games were added into the mix and a sixth casino was opened. The Hollywood Casino Perryville was the first to open in the state, followed shortly after by the Casino at Ocean Downs. The most recent addition to the state’s offerings is the lavish MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County, featuring table games and slot machines combined with entertainment and dining outlets. These Maryland casinos have become a major generator for tax revenue, bringing in over $414 million in this month’s first four months alone with approximately $150 million of this revenue put towards state and local taxes.

According to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, this money derived from casinos has netted over $2.1 billion to the Maryland Education Trust Fund. It’s also supported local impact grants and small businesses, all of which provides an incentive for the industry to be protected at the government level.

Maryland’s casinos continue to grow, setting a new single-month record for revenues in March this year alone. The state’s six casinos boosted their revenues between March 2017 and March 2018 by 6.3%, garnering over $150 million. You can read a breakdown here of how each casino fared, with MGM National Harbor coming out on top and the HorseshoeCasino trailing the rest. Overall, land-based casinos have been a boon for the local economy by employing over 7,000 Maryland residents.

Online Gambling Legislation

While land-based casinos have been expanding their offerings, online gambling has yet to be legalized in Maryland. It’s possible that the state will follow the model set by New Jersey, which legalized online gambling in 2011. The state currently leads the way in online gambling with a market worth over $225 million each year. Generally speaking, New Jersey’s online casinos are operated by the same companies profiting from the land-based casinos, most based in Atlantic City. This template of ownership could be applied to Maryland in the near future, with operators like MGM expanding their offerings into online gaming.

At the moment, Maryland lawmakers are playing it safe by watching examples like New Jersey closely to see how the online gambling situation pans out. In the interest of raising new tax revenue and driving up business for the existing casinos, online gambling may be on the docket in coming years. One of the biggest issues will be whether or not the state’s land-based casinos can continue their profitable streak without online gaming threatening the market. If online providers follow the New Jersey model and work hand-in-hand with traditional casinos, this caveat would easily be overcome.

The Future of Maryland Gambling

Today’s political climate is favourable towards gambling, which makes it the perfect time for Maryland’s gambling industry to expand further into the online market. The legalization of slot machines and table games were the first baby steps towards opening this industry up further. Sports betting is the next frontier to be opened up, debated back in November before the recent Supreme Court ruling in its favour. There’s a strong argument being made that Maryland must keep pace with competitors in order to continue attracting visitors to its star attractions like the MGM National Harbor.

Though with the rapid changes in the USA’s political landscape, this window could potentially close if lawmakers do not open up to expansion in the near future. Gambling laws in the country as a whole are notoriously different, and so while New Jersey may indicate what could happen in Maryland it’s certainly no guarantee of any impending changes to policy. It’s impossible to predict the future, but with the way the wind is blowing all signs point to an open mind and increased tax revenue.

 


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