Maryland Poker Laws & Gambling Bills

The Maryland statutes make no mention if online poker is legal or illegal. Maryland was an early adopter of a legal lottery, and there is a long history of legal horse racing and pari-mutuel betting in the state. For several decades, that was the limit.

In 2007, legislators decided to allow the residents of Maryland to vote on slot machines, though the number allowed would be limited. In 2008, the voters passed the referendum with 58% in favor, which led to the first casino opening in 2010. And a new one opened nearly every year since. By 2013, table games were added to the legal games allowed at the casinos, and Maryland Live! launched a poker room that rivaled many others on the East Coast. There are now six full-fledged casinos operating in Maryland, one of which is also connected to a racetrack at Ocean Downs.

Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Maryland

The last time there was a chance that Maryland legislators would consider online gambling was in 2012. In the summer months, the Associated Press reported that the State House Speaker introduced the idea of online gambling to be discussed at a House Democratic Caucus meeting. The words came not long after Delaware took up a similar measure to legalize online poker and internet casino games.

At that time, Governor Martin O’Malley would not confirm or deny that internet gambling would be included in a gambling expansion bill, which at the time was being considered to add table games to casinos that already had slot machines and other games. However, online poker was not brought up in that or any subsequent meetings, and it was not a part of that bill that did pass through the legislature.

Despite the growth of land-based casinos, which do include poker rooms, there has been little talk of an online poker or internet gambling component in several years. Several live poker rooms have been very successful to date, though none seem to be lobbying for an online poker counterpart.

Even so, Maryland continues to appear on most lists developed regarding states most likely to consider online poker in the coming years. The primary reason is due to online gaming’s success in neighboring New Jersey, where it has substantially contributed to overall gaming revenue and continues growing each year. New Jersey is now preparing to link its online poker sites to those in Delaware and Nevada, which will expand the game’s reach and growth potential.

Finally, in 2017, Pennsylvania joined the group of states with legal online poker and casino games. Other states in the area are also considering bills with a varying degree of seriousness, with New York leading the pack but others like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even West Virginia taking a look at their options. Those states have enough legislators with knowledge of the industry and an interest in exploring the possibilities to make it happen.

If Maryland wants to stay competitive in that part of the country, some in the state know that they must consider online gambling as an option.

Maryland Laws Pertinent to Online Poker

In the criminal law section of the Maryland statutes, gambling is Titles 12 for statewide provisions and Title 13 for local.

The definitions do not include one for gambling, player, and many of the other typical terms used in gambling laws. There is one for gaming event, which is defined as a bingo game, carnival, bazaar, raffle, benefit performance, or “any other event at which a gambling device is operated.”

There are a lot of prohibitions in the statute, however, the broadest of which is that a person may not “bet, wager, or gamble.” Others include:

  • Using part of a building, vessel, or place on land or water for gambling.
  • Playing thimbles, little joker, craps or dice, or any other gaming device or fraudulent trick.
  • Keeping a gaming device.
  • Having an interest in a gaming device or profits of one.
  • Gambling on a vessel on or over water.
  • Keeping a vessel or structure for gaming devices.
  • Conducting pari-mutuel betting
  • Accepting credit from a person to play a gaming device.
  • Causing the prearrangement or predetermination of a horse race.

There is another part of the statute that addresses online fantasy competitions, which is defined as “any online fantasy or simulated game or contest such as fantasy sports” with imaginary teams. With that said, prohibitions against gambling do not apply to fantasy competitions, which may be regulated by the comptroller of the state.

Maryland Gaming does have an official website, and it details Title 36 of the state code that gives power to the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Subtitle 6 addresses electronic gaming devices, which are “all electronic gaming devices, regardless of whether the device delivers a game through the internet or offers internet or other services. Lawful electronic gaming devices include antiques that are not operational and instant bingo machines.

Other than the ones names, “an electronic gaming device is unlawful if it is not authorized by Regulation .01 of this chapter.” This section is broad and does not specifically address online poker or other table games that may be classified as skill-based games.

Disclaimer:  This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  How many online poker sites are available to Maryland residents?

Answer:  At this time, there are only two –BetOnline and SportsBetting. Several sites that offer online poker services to the vast majority of the United States – Bovada, Intertops, and Ignition Poker – put Maryland on their list of banned states due to legal advice. While the general gambling laws are not as specific as those in other states, the legal teams at some sites have determined it not advisable to stay open in Maryland. However, the legal experts at the two sites we recommend here are comfortable with remaining available to players in Maryland.

Question:  Are players at risk of legal trouble?

Answer:  No. Should Maryland’s law enforcement officials decide to pursue online poker as an illegal form of gambling, the site operators will be the target. Players are extremely unlikely to be targeted.

Question:  How can I encourage legislators to legalize online poker?

Answer:  The best way is to simply contact state legislators to explain the benefits, such as revenue, of legalizing online poker, as well as the dangers that currently exist for players, such as a lack of regulation to track sites, collect revenue, and protect citizens from sites that could take advantage of American players. Online poker could also bring new players to the live poker rooms by giving them the experience and education of playing online before visiting the actual casinos.

Gaming Resources in Maryland