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Maryland Gambling


As with many of its neighbors on the East Coast like Florida, Maryland has recently seen a wave of casino expansion designed as an attempt to keep gambling dollars within its own borders. But these latest efforts aren’t the first time that the state has been a part of America’s gaming landscape. In fact, there was a time when it was considered a traditional gambling destination in the United States, at least for a short period when it was the only place to play slots legally outside of Nevada.

A Historic Casino Haven

In the 1940s, four counties in southern Maryland had an idea: why not raise money by legalizing slot machines locally? While the governor attempted to veto the idea in 1947, there was no stopping the counties for long, and soon there were places to play slots in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.

It may be hard to believe, but for a time, these venues were a serious rival to Las Vegas. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was still certainly more money being bet in Nevada, but it was the Old Line State that had the most places to play, and there was no denying how much revenue these machines were bringing in. A 1963 report said that there were a total of 9,300 gaming devices in the four counties, and that annual revenues from them were at least $24 million.

However, the good times weren’t to last forever. In 1968, the government completely outlawed slots, putting an end to the Vegas-like atmosphere – at least for a few decades.

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Lottery Follows Before Full Expansion

But the gambling bug had already become established, and it wouldn’t be long before voters demanded a new way to place bets. In 1972, voters approved an amendment to the constitution that would allow the establishment of the Maryland Lottery. At the start of 1973, the first drawings were held. The organization has operated continuously since then, expanding to what it now offers today: drawings, scratch off games, and participation in widely-available interstate games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

After the establishment of the lottery, it would take more than 30 years before another significant expansion of the gaming industry took place, and it would once again be due to a statewide referendum. In 2008, voters approved a constitutional amendment that authorized slot machines to be placed in up to five locations, each of which would have to be located in a specific county (or, in one case, in the city of Baltimore).

The first of these locations, Hollywood Casino Perryville, opened in 2010. Since then, it has been joined by a facility at the Ocean Downs race track, Maryland Live, the Rocky Gap Resort, and the Horseshoe Casino, which opened in August 2014.

While all of these venues were originally slots-only, that changed in 2012. That year, voters once again approved a referendum that allowed for table games (including poker) at all casinos in Maryland.

Horse racing is also an important part of the gaming scene. The most prominent track here is the Pimlico Race Course, which was established way back in 1870. Its most famous race is the Preakness Stakes, which is held each year as the second Triple Crown race – two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

Internet Considered as Area of Expansion

Maryland may not have jumped into the online gambling arena quite yet, but we're not exactly shying away from the issue, either. According to what has been suggested by lawmakers and officials, we are currently taking a wait and see approach based on the experiences of New Jersey and other states, and are keeping an open mind toward the future.

That means that, at this time, there isn’t any form of regulated Internet gaming available. However, given our official "gray market" status, there are still plenty of online casinos in Maryland that offer real money games.

More Development Coming In Future Years

With Maryland’s gaming industry still in development, it is no surprise to learn that more changes are likely to come in the near future. There are new venues opening on the land-based side of things, while Internet expansion will remain a realistic possibility in the next several years.

When it comes to physical locations, the next casino to open will be the MGM National Harbor. Located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., National Harbor is a newly redeveloped area that caters to tourists, conventions, and events. That makes it a prime location for a gambling resort, and this could prove to be the most lucrative expansion project yet in the state.

The Internet side of the equation is much less clear here. Legislators have made a point of noting that with New Jersey already offering online gambling, and with Pennsylvania (and perhaps other states, like New York and Connecticut) considering it strongly, they might be left behind in the regional arms race if they don’t also offer such games. However, it seems as though the state is – at least for the time being – willing to see how the brick-and-mortar industry develops, and how other iGaming markets work out, before jumping into the regulation game themselves.

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