As sports betting fell by the wayside in Massachusetts, the subject of online lottery and online gambling came up during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in Maryland on Tuesday.

A word of warning: The discussion is still in the earliest stages, and a previous effort to legalize online lottery didn’t gain much traction.

That said, the comments during the hearing indicate the combination of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the state economy and the positive experiences with online gambling seen by some of Maryland’s neighbors are having an impact on the Terrapin State.

Across the country, casino revenue has taken a significant hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Maryland, casino revenue is down 27% in 2020. More worrisome, the state earmarks the casino revenue it receives for the Education Trust Fund, and as states ponder how to reopen schools, the solutions are going to be costly.  

Also of note, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill in March that places a sports betting referendum on the November ballot. With gaming expansion already on the agenda, Maryland lawmakers might take a page out of Pennsylvania’s playbook and comprehensively tackle the issue.

What Was Said During the Hearing?

Local reporting from WBALTV 11 indicates the topics of online lottery and online casino gambling were discussed in an inquisitive way, with the answers all favoring legalization.

“Those states who offer iLottery have seen their iLottery sales absolutely explode,” said Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. “The best asset for all the experience everyone’s had with iLottery, it doesn’t hurt brick-and-mortar sales, and that’s very important to us.”

Following the lottery comments, House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke broached the subject of online casino gaming, and if states that have legalized online casino gambling have experienced similar results.

WBALTV 11’s reporting also notes that the state’s casinos are in favor of online lottery and gambling.

Maryland Is an Important Domino

Maryland would be a significant prize for legal online gambling operators. The state boasts only six million residents, but it has the highest per capita income in the country and is routinely cited as the wealthiest state in the country.

Despite being a great candidate, Maryland has rarely entered the online gambling discussion. Its lottery is one of the best-performing in the country, and its still-young casino market (casino gambling was legalized in 2008 by referendum) has quickly become one of the best casino markets in the country.

In part, because its gambling industry has been successful, there has been little appetite for online expansion. But, as it has in other locales, Coronavirus has exposed markets that are content with the status quo. Online gambling states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been able to mitigate the impact of casino shutdowns through their online offerings, while states like Maryland are struggling and looking for solutions that have been at their fingertips all along.

And as is the case with sports betting, don’t think for a second that Maryland residents aren’t using offshore online casinos and online poker sites.

The question is, will Maryland act?

Legalizing online gambling would keep those gaming dollars in-state and, at the same time, provide Maryland residents with regulated online gambling options that offer a higher level of consumer protections.

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