The old adage "in like a lion, out like a lamb" is an apt comparison for the prospects of online casino in Maryland.

While interest and discussion weren’t limited to March, as far back as last autumn, operators, vendors, suppliers, consultants, lawmakers and many others in the US gambling landscape were shouting about the prospect of Maryland legalising online casino.

On Monday (8 April) those prospects went out without a peep when the general assembly adjourned with no action on gambling.

Failed Maryland gambling expansion second key loss in 2024

The loss, as the gambling industry will see it, is the second key one this session. Ten days earlier, the Georgia general assembly ended its term without legalising digital sports betting. That meant the two states projected to have the best chance at a gambling expansion failed to produce.

In Georgia, lawmakers remain bogged down in how to spend proceeds rather than whether or not to support the legislation. Negotiating went on nearly until the final minutes of the session.

In Maryland, had lawmakers considered online gambling on the final day, it would have been to send a referendum to voters to determine whether or not they want it – but with no framework.

Legislators legalised sports betting the same way and came back after voters approved in November 2020 to hammer out details and develop regulations.

This won't be the year for online casino legalization in Maryland — and maybe that's not such a bad thing. Clearly, the powers that be in the state still have a lot to debate and research in terms of how to approach it. For @casino_reports:https://t.co/eyeMn4CL3H

— Eric Raskin + (@EricRaskin) April 8, 2024

Across the country, few opportunities for gambling expansion remain alive in state legislatures. Some of the ones that do have little possibility of passing.

Hopes in Minnesota became far more complicated last week when the state’s racing commission passed regulations to allow for historical horse racing.

Considered by many a violation of the state’s promise of gambling exclusivity to its tribes, that decision resulted in several new gambling bills in the legislature that expressly ban HHR.

HHR discussion steals time from gambling expansion talk

The time that lawmakers will spend prohibiting HHR and tangling with the gaming commission is time taken away from negotiating a deal that could allow for statewide online sports betting.

Zack Stephenson, the house sports betting sponsor and chair of the Commerce Policy and Finance Committee, responded to the racing commission by filing a bill that explicitly prohibits HHR.

That was initially scheduled to be heard in Commerce on Monday (8 April) but, after the introduction, the committee broke for a floor session. Stephenson’s bill, and one filed in the senate, will be heard in committees on 9 April.

https://t.co/4ybvBwN8ug @MinnesotaDFL is working on behalf of special interests to kill a $400 million Minnesota industry. Why? #revengebill

— 🏇Joe Scurto🐎🍀 (@JoeyHorseshoe) April 9, 2024

At a meeting following the racing commission’s decision last week, Stephenson said, “That’s a total non-starter. It will not happen. It will not be part of a sports betting deal. Bright red line in the sand.”

Track representatives say Stephenson’s bill feels “retaliatory”. Running Aces’ VP of marketing and operations Aaron Dedessem told KAAL TV: “This is a ridiculous bill that, if implemented, will put us out of business.”

Gambling expansion bills still floating around in these states

Here’s a look at other states where some form of gambling expansion isn’t dead yet, but isn’t really alive, either:

Alabama

In state that doesn’t even have a lottery, the comprehensive package of bills that would have legalised lottery, up to 10 retail casinos and physical and digital sports betting, is now sitting with a conference committee.

Tasked with bridging gaps in the tax rate, how to handle the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ gambling exclusivity and other key issues. The legislature is set to adjourn on 20 May.

Maine

With less than a week left in the session, two bills that would give the state’s four tribes control on online casino and shut out two existing brick-and-mortars – Churchill Downs, Inc, and Penn Entertainment – both came out of committee with “divided report(s)”. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 17 April.

Mississippi

Last week the senate gaming committee held a meeting that was literally less than two minutes long and passed a strike-all version of a sports betting bill in an effort to keep the conversation in Jackson going. Two related bills died in committee late last week. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 5 May.

Missouri

At least one of the myriad sports betting bills has moved onto the house’s “informal perfection calendar”, which means it can be discussed on the floor. But there remains little consensus in Missouri and one senator continues to want to tie legal wagering to legal video lottery machines, something that has previously been a non-starter.

The state’s pro sports teams are attempting an end-around by gathering signatures for a sports betting initiative that would go on the November ballot.

That truly could be the most realistic shot for an expansion of gambling anywhere that is still in play. The legislative session ends on 17 May and the pro teams have until early May to collect the needed 171,592 verified signatures to get on the ballot.

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