Maryland was the first state in the union to pass a law specifically legalizing paid-entry fantasy sports back in 2012. At the beginning of 2017, Maryland also implemented new consumer-friendly regulations for the Daily Fantasy Sports industry operating in the state as a whole. This makes it one of the most DFS-friendly places in the whole country to play sites like DraftKings and FanDuel.
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It’s fair to say the Old Line State has been known to take a rather Jekyll and Hyde approach to gambling, lurching back and forth between prohibition and legislation throughout its history. These days, Maryland seems to be seeking a generally progressive loosening of gambling restrictions, although this is clearly not evident (or welcome) in some parts of the state. However, lawmakers have not been blind (or indeed, quick) in realizing how much potential revenue has been lost to neighboring states from Maryland residents who have had no option but to travel elsewhere to get their sports gambling or online betting fix.
Thankfully, recent changes in legislation have made it possible for Maryland residents to legally play casino games at six casinos, four of which also offer legit live poker rooms. Pari-mutuel betting on horse races is allowed as well, as are lottery games and bingo.
As with so many other states, online gambling in Maryland is a different situation. According to the wording of the state’s statutes, online casinos and online poker are both illegal.
All gambling-related issues in Maryland are covered by the following statute: “Betting, wagering, gambling, etc.
(a) Prohibited.- 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. “ (from Section 12-201)
Clearly, this very broad definition, with its catch-all term of “wagering” can be interpreted—and misinterpreted—in a number of ways, especially when it comes to online gambling. In practice, that means players can't place a legal bet online in Maryland. Despite some solid in-person betting options, Marylanders can't place a wager through the internet.
An online poker business in Maryland is not, technically speaking, permitted under current legislation. It is illegal for Maryland residents to play online poker through any website.
There’s hope that now that neighboring states like New Jersey and Delaware have embraced regulated online gambling in the form of online poker, Maryland may soon join the next wave of states to reconsider its position.
Of course, 100% legal live poker is available at four Maryland casinos: Hollywood Casino Perryville, Horseshoe Baltimore, Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills, and MGM National Harbor.
Currently sports betting in Maryland is almost entirely restricted to pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, including live simulcast racing between states. This type of wagering works by putting all bets of a particular type together in a pool, then working out the payoff odds by sharing the pool among all winning bets (minus all taxes and the house-take, of course).
Online sports betting in Maryland is looking more likely since the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 Federal Law earlier this year that banned sports betting in states that didn’t already have suitable betting legislation in place. With nearby New Jersey and Delaware launching sports betting at casinos and racetracks, Maryland lawmakers may try to keep their citizens—and potential revenue—from going to out-of-state betting venues. Optimists believe online sports betting in Maryland could be entirely legal by 2020, though there is a heavy legislative burden to get to that point.