Gambling laws in America are going through the most comprehensive review they have ever seen, with nearly every state holding consultations and tabling bills that will see new activities becoming legal. This follows a federal review challenging the 1961 Wire Act which forbade certain activities across state lines. Of course, back in 1961, there was no internet or mobile network – and now that state lines are so easily crossed through digital means, restricting gambling activities has become impossible.
Because federal law trumps state law, individual governments couldn’t legalize gambling activities in their state. But now that the Wire Act has been deemed not to apply to online activities, the states have been given more freedom to legalize and operate gambling and betting operations.
Even before the Wire Act Review, Maryland had conducted its own review of it’s gambling activities. In 2008, the state legalized land-based casinos and there are now 6 venues operating casino games within the state. Sports betting is big in Maryland, especially on horse racing, and there are a further 2 racetracks that accept bets. You can also play daily fantasy sports online, buy lottery tickets, and play in bingo halls.
Are Laws as Relaxed as they Seem?
The short answer is no. Although land-based gambling is allowed, the state government has placed a series of restrictions on which casinos will be granted a license. People cannot hold cash games at home, or own gambling devices such as slot machines or video poker machines – table games and gaming machines must only be played inside a licensed venue.
Counties wishing to have a casino must conduct a local referendum, and if agreed each region can only have one gambling operation – so one casino or racetrack, not both. There are also limits on exactly what games can be offered by charities, and even how many bingo cards can be purchased by an individual in a session.
The State government benefits from the taxes placed on gambling activities, so you would think they would be keen to maximize returns. Currently, casino profits are taxed at 20%, except for slot machines which must pay 67%!
The Problem with Online Gambling
Only daily fantasy sports betting is legal in Maryland.
There is no specific law in Maryland that mentions online gambling, so players are unsure whether they are permitted to play at offshore casinos or not. While there have been several charges brought against people and companies for operating or abetting online gambling sites, it is unlikely that players will be targeted for prosecution.
At the moment, the only online betting specifically legalized in Maryland is Daily Fantasy Sports. A separate bill that sought to legalize sports betting was defeated in 2018, and another was drafted the following year but progress through the courts has stalled. However, sports betting legislation has been passed in a number of other states including neighboring Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The Maryland state government is watching closely to see how things pan out and could follow suit if there is enough evidence that legalized sports betting is beneficial.
Supply vs Demand
Gambling games are popular with young adults.
Casino games are growing in popularity, especially amongst young adults who see them as a great way to relax with friends and add a bit of excitement to their leisure time. This is the generation who are most comfortable online, using the internet for shopping, work, and socializing. The demand is there for online casinos as these offer the easiest and most convenient way to play popular casino games like Roulette. There are different forms of Roulette, with American Roulette unsurprisingly being popular amongst Americans, in this form of the game, there is greater risk and reward as the wheel features a 0 and 00. At the brilliant 888 casinos, players even have the opportunity to take advantage of an autoplay feature so you can sit back and watch the drama unfold as you play American Roulette.
More than half of all US states have already legalized sports betting, making Maryland one which is lagging behind the curve. In November 2020 voters approved the introduction of some sports betting activities, and it is now up to the state’s government to design the proposed framework.
Only five states have legalized online casinos or online poker games: Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. So far, each state has seen its gamble turn into a massive success, and it won’t be long before others join their ranks. While Maryland is concentrating its efforts on sports betting, there are others like California and Indiana, who might be next to take the leap and legalize online casinos. With Maryland watching closely, residents might not have to wait too long, and may even see legalized online casinos this decade.
It looks like legal sports betting in Maryland could be up and running next year, after securing a public vote which went 2-1 in its favor. This should show the state government that there is a clear demand for online gambling services and may prompt them to look closer at expanding facilities. Were they to license and regulate online gambling in the same way they license land-based premises, the government could see a nice influx of tax dollars lining their coffers.