Maryland survey shows little enthusiasm for online casino

March 2, 2024 4:48 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Steve Chen — Special to CDC Gaming Reports
March 2, 2024 4:48 PM
  • Steve Chen — Special to CDC Gaming Reports

A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Maryland Retailers Alliance has shown little enthusiasm for legalizing online casino gambling in Maryland.

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The poll found insufficient support to pass a ballot referendum legalizing igaming and ilottery  this November. A supporter of Maryland’s land-based casinos, the MRA opposes the rise of online gambling and digital lotteries.

While the poll did not disclose demographic data, indications from the Public Policy Polling revealed that 64 percent of respondents are against online casinos, with 23% in favor and 13 percent undecided.

“These policies would negatively impact not only the gaming and lottery industries but also every community that benefits from their local economic stimulation,” said Cailey Locklair, MRA president, adding that Maryland’s casinos are strategically situated within 20 miles of eight Main Street neighborhoods in Baltimore City and 11 Maryland Main Street communities. “A downturn of the casino industry would have a direct negative impact on the local tourism economy, hitting every restaurant, retailer and hotel that operates near these entertainment epicenters.”

Despite facing significant opposition, the progress of igaming legislation on the November ballot continues. Online casino bills are under consideration by lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly, although none has advanced to a full floor vote.

To legalize igaming, lawmakers must first get approval from voters via a state-wide ballot referendum to amend the Maryland Constitution to allow online gambling. A constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent majority in each chamber, and then get the governor’s approval.

On Thursday, Christine Wechsler, the senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at Scientific Games, testified before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee. She expressed the company’s endorsement of House Bill 1218, which would grant the Maryland Lottery the authority to present its games to in-state consumers via online sales channels. Wechsler emphasized the significance of staying competitive and modernizing in line with other gaming products in the market to maintain and expand the Maryland Lottery’s annual profits, which exceed $714 million.

“The Maryland Lottery is like all other businesses selling products to consumers – it must modernize to meet changing consumer demand. Providing convenient and relevant experiences to consumers online and at retail will be critical to enable the lottery’s sustainability and maximize revenue potential for the state,” Wechsler testified.

She also dispelled concerns about ilottery negatively affecting land-based gambling retail sales. Highlighting examples from the 12 U.S. lotteries selling online, she said none has experienced cannibalization at retail casinos, with retail sales showing rapid growth in legal ilottery jurisdiction compared to states that do not offer online tickets. She also said ilottery enhances player protection and supports responsible play, with the ability for players to self-exclude, take part in cool-off periods and set deposit limits.

She also stressed that ilottery does not intend to replace or compete with casino games, but to serve as a new and convenient sales channel for lottery products. Wechsler highlighted the successful co-existence in other states where ilottery seamlessly operates alongside igaming, sports betting and other gambling verticals.

“Our focus has always been on delivering solutions and services to facilitate retail growth and maximize profit returned to Maryland’s beneficiaries, and we are invested and fully committed to helping shape a successful ilottery framework for the state that responsibly drives continued growth across the lottery’s established brick-and-mortar retailer network while providing incremental online revenue,” Wechsler said of Scientific Games.