Maryland is home to a limited number of online betting options and several casinos. The state entered the world of gambling relatively recently with a 2008 constitutional referendum that allowed slot machines to be placed at five preapproved locations. In 2012, voters approved the addition of table games at certain locations.
Today, the state has six full-fledged casinos. Five of these are traditional casinos while the sixth is a “racino” that has a horse racing track in addition to gambling games. Online betting in Maryland is limited to parimutuel horse racing and fantasy sports. The state has no plans to expand online poker and no bills have been proposed to even look into the issue.
Best Betting Sites in Maryland
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
That said, Maryland could very well join the short list of states that have already legalized online sportsbooks, poker sites or casinos. The state is home to a large population and is in the process of expanding its land-based gaming options. Once the state gets its brick-and-mortar industry settled into place, the next logical step would be to look into online gambling.
Maryland’s lawmakers have stated they are not opposed to online casinos or poker rooms, but they would prefer to wait and see how it goes in other states first. The state’s land-based industry will most likely have some influence over whether or not the state seriously considers adding new forms of internet betting.
This could go one of two ways. If the state’s existing casinos fear competition from the internet, they may very well pressure lawmakers to restrict poker and casino gambling to the real world. The other possibility is the industry will see the potential in internet gaming and seek to get something passed that would allow them to set up their own real money websites.
One glimmer of hope comes from the fact that the Horseshoe Baltimore is owned by Caesars. Caesars is already involved in New Jersey’s online gambling industry. They could very well support the addition of online gaming in Maryland and push for player-sharing agreements between Maryland and New Jersey.
At this point, it’s all just speculation. If there are plans to expand online betting in Maryland, they haven’t been made public. Players in the meantime can visit a number of betting websites for other types of betting. Let’s take a look at those first and then take a closer look at Maryland’s gaming laws.
Legal Gaming Sites Currently Operating in Maryland
Horse racing and fantasy sports betting are already legal in Maryland. Both of these forms of betting are exempt from federal anti-gambling laws and require no additional authorization from any state to offer their services.
Horse and Greyhound Racing
Fantasy sports betting is the fastest-growing form of legal online betting in Maryland and the USA at large. Much of this popularity can be attributed to the fact that so many people are already familiar with fantasy sports leagues. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that 41.5 million Americans will play in a fantasy league this year alone.
Traditional fantasy sports leagues last an entire season and are therefore limited in how many participants they attract each season. Today’s fantasy betting sites host contests that last just a week and are therefore able to attract thousands of players every day. Instead of being stuck with the same roster for an entire season, people can play dozens of games and enter hundreds of contests every season.
Maryland also supports parimutuel greyhound and horse betting at certain websites. Just like fantasy sports, internet horse wagering is legal at the federal level and each state has the authority to determine which, if any, racing sites are allowed to accept wagers from residents. In Maryland, this includes the list of sites you see above.
Each dog or horse betting site covers a minimum of 100 tracks in the US and abroad. You can place wagers on races ever day of the week and be paid instantly. Most sites also simulcast events in real time on your computer. All you have to do is sign up for an account and you can watch the races for free. The sites that I recommend above are all located in the US and are 100% legal.
Maryland Sports Betting Law
Maryland does not authorize sports betting at this time, but the potential for change exists. In February of 2018, House lawmakers introduced HB 1014 calling for a public referendum that would ask voters to vote for or against Maryland authorizing sports betting if the Supreme Court determines the federal prohibition of such is unconstitutional. It turns out, the Supreme Court did indeed strike down the prohibition, so this bill has some promise.
HB 1014 was not itself a legalization bill and it contained no regulatory language; its only purpose was to force a referendum on the issue of sports betting. This bill was also contingent upon the Supreme Court ruling in favor of New Jersey in that state’s challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which formerly prohibited states from legalizing sports betting.
What this all means is several things still need to happen before we get sports betting in Maryland. First, the Supreme Court must strike down PASPA (done). Second, the referendum vote needs to pass the Senate. Third, the referendum needs to be held and voters need to approve of sports betting. And finally, the House and Senate would need to draft and successfully pass legislation that would legalize and regulate sports betting.
There is still a lot of room for the sports betting train to be derailed in Maryland, but the fact that this first bill was introduced and easily passed a House vote is a good start for anyone hoping to see legal betting in Maryland.
Fans of sports betting can also take heart knowing the state’s casinos strongly support sports betting and they hold considerable sway in the state. The biggest hurdle will likely be the public referendum. If voters approve of the bill, lawmakers are likely to follow suit with legislation knowing the public is on board and with powerful casino interests also supporting the effort.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports were legalized in Maryland in 2012 with the addition of Section 12-114 as described above. However, simply legalizing fantasy sports did not in any way regulate the industry. Fantasy sports sites operated under no constraints in Maryland up until early 2017. The daily fantasy industry did an adequate job self-regulating at the time, but lawmakers were determined to regulate the industry.
After two attempts to pass new legislation failed in 2016, the Maryland Comptroller’s office took matters into its own hands (the 2012 law gave the Comptroller authority to issue daily fantasy regulations) and proposed a series of regulations pertaining to daily fantasy sports.
Those regulations were eventually accepted and went into effect in early 2017. For the most part, the regulations governing daily fantasy sites in Maryland resemble those already active in other states. The one major difference between Maryland and most other states that regulate fantasy sports is Maryland does not have a licensing process and does not require a fee from would-be operators. Anyone is welcome to try their hand at the daily fantasy business in Maryland provided they adhere to the following regulations:
- Daily fantasy sites must prohibit players under 18, employees of fantasy sites and the family members of employees of fantasy sites from participating in games. Daily fantasy sites must also prohibit professional athletes from participating in contests that involve their sports.
- Fantasy games based on amateur or college sports are prohibited
- Operators must clearly identify players who are highly experienced
- Operators must prohibit the use of third-party scripts (automation tools designed to give experienced players an edge in contests)
- Operators may not extend credit to players
- All player funds must be kept in a segregated account separate from that site’s operating funds
- Operators are prohibited from depicting minors, students and school or college settings in their advertisements
- Fantasy sites must notify Marylanders of their tax obligations
Does the Maryland Lottery sell tickets online?
The Maryland Lottery does not sell ticket s online nor does it authorize third parties to do so. If you come across a website that purports to purchase tickets on your behalf, know that the site is unregulated and is most likely hosted overseas. This presents considerable risk in the case of large winnings. It is best to just make the extra trip to your nearest retailer and purchase tickets in person.
The MD lottery website does offer subscription packages. You can apply for a subscription by visiting this page to print and complete the PDF form to start a subscription. Subscriptions are available for Multi-Match and Mega Millions. Powerball subscriptions are not available at this time.
Subscription packages can be purchased for 26 to 104 individual drawings. You can choose your own numbers or leave that part of the application blank to have numbers picked at random. If you win more than $10, the state will send you a check automatically. Earnings of less than $10 are paid at the end of the subscription period.
Online Poker and Casinos
Maryland has not yet enacted legislation to legalize online poker or casino games and therefore there are no legally sanctioned casino or poker sites in operation. There are no active measures to change that, but Maryland has moved in a pro-gaming direction in recent years with the expansion of land-based gambling and the implementation of a 2016 law legalizing some home poker games.
The home game poker law, HB 127, legalized private poker and card games under certain conditions:
- The game cannot involve more than $1,000 during any 24-hour period
- The game cannot be held more than once a week
- The game is not advertised to the public
- No one may make a profit off the game except as a player
HB 127 received considerable support among retirees in Maryland who enjoy poker and mah-jongg in particular. One 72-year-old resident who supported the bill explained that she was motivated by an instance in which the police raided a $4 mah-jongg game in her retirement community after a resident who had lost $20 called the police to report the game.
Whether or not Maryland’s recent move towards gambling expansion also extends to the internet will depend partially on how the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos approach online gambling.
Maryland Gaming Law
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (LGCA) is responsible for overseeing the state lottery and land-based gaming industry. The LGCA is the authority that issues licenses for casinos, monitors casinos for adhering to all state regulations and ensuring that the lottery is run in a safe and legal manner.
Criminal law in Maryland prohibits participating in or organizing gambling except when expressly permitted by the state. Section 12-102 states the following:
(a) A person may not:
(1) bet, wager, or gamble;
(2) make or sell a book or pool on the result of a race, contest, or contingency;
(3) establish, keep, rent, use, or occupy, or knowingly allow to be established, kept, rented, used, or occupied, all or a part of a building, vessel, or place, on land or water, within the State, for the purpose of:
(i) betting, wagering, or gambling; or
(ii) making, selling, or buying books or pools on the result of a race, contest, or contingency; or
(4) receive, become the depository of, record, register, or forward, or propose, agree, or pretend to forward, money or any other thing or consideration of value, to be bet, wagered, or gambled on the result of a race, contest, or contingency.
(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not less than 6 months and not exceeding 1 year or a fine of not less than $200 and not exceeding $1,000 or both.
This law could be applied to online poker and gambling but Maryland has never prosecuted a person for playing online to this date. For the most part, the laws are enforced against those who operate unlicensed games and devices.
Maryland is unique in that its criminal code specifically mentions fantasy sports betting. Section 12-114 provides a definition of fantasy betting and explains that fantasy betting is legal if:
(1) participants own, manage, or coach imaginary teams;
(2) all prizes and awards offered to winning participants are established and made known to participants in advance of the game or contest;
(3) the winning outcome of the game or contest reflects the relative skill of the participants and is determined by statistics generated by actual individuals (players or teams in the case of a professional sport); and
(4) no winning outcome is based:
(i) solely on the performance of an individual athlete; or
(ii) on the score, point spread, or any performances of any single real–world team or any combination of real–world teams.
In short, this gives fantasy betting sites the green light to operate inside Maryland. Most states have no laws whatsoever so the issue of legality isn’t as clear-cut. Fantasy sports fans here can play knowing that it is without a doubt legal to participate in real money fantasy leagues.