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Key Takeaways
  • The Baltimore Sun suggests Maryland lawmakers copy the Nevada online poker model — legalizing poker, but not online casino gaming.
  • It advises “slow and cautious” expansion beyond sports betting due to potential harm to those with gambling addiction.
  • The Sun sees expanded igaming as a solution for Maryland’s projected $418 million budget deficit.
  • The compromise proposes permitting online poker games with live dealers to limit appeal.
  • If legislators agree, Maryland will resemble Nevada, the only US state with legal online poker and online sports betting sans online casino gaming.
  • Interest in Maryland’s online poker and casino market is high, with potential gross game revenue of $533.4 million in 2026, rising to $921.1 million in 2032.

It’s not exactly an off-the-wall idea. Nevada has, for ten years, offered online poker sites but not other forms of casino gambling. As Maryland lawmakers consider whether to expand igaming to include online casino gaming and online poker, the editorial board of the largest newspaper in the state suggested that they consider a setup like Nevada — online poker is legal and regulated, but not online casino gaming, in the Silver State.

In an editorial on Tuesday, writers for the Baltimore Sun recommended that lawmakers proceed “slowly and cautiously” with any expansion beyond sports betting in MD, which launched in November 2022.

The crux of the Sun editorial is that a broad expansion of igaming in the Old Line State could harm Marylanders suffering from gambling addiction and that the impact of allowing sports betting is not yet known.

At the same time, the newspaper said it thinks lawmakers are looking at expanded igaming as the golden goose that can help fill the state’s empty coffers — the Sun cited state reports that project a $418 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year, expanding to $1.8 billion by 2027.

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The newspaper suggested a compromise — “permit online poker games alone and then only with live dealers. This would limit the appeal much more than, for example, mindless spins of online slot machines.”

If lawmakers decide to follow the first half of that suggestion when the legislature convenes in January, Maryland would ultimately have a setup similar to Nevada, the only state in the US with legal online poker and online sports betting, but not online casino gaming.

“It’s not exactly an off-the-wall idea,” the editorial board wrote. “Nevada has, for ten years, offered online poker sites but not other forms of casino gambling.”

WSOP NV is currently the only operator dealing real money online poker in Nevada, but rumors persist that BetMGM has designs on launching there as well.

Newspaper Makes a Bad Suggestion, Too

That said, the second half of the newspaper’s recommendation is to have online poker with live dealers, which isn’t a workable solution since no product currently supports live dealer peer-to-peer online poker.

Rhode Island recently ran into a similar issue. Earlier this year, lawmakers in that state changed what constitutes an “online table game” by removing language from an igaming expansion bill to allow random number generation (RNG) in table games. They then added the words “where such games are conducted by one or more live persons” for table games.

The changes mean that RNGs are only allowed for slots in Rhode Island, and all table games must have live dealers.

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There are some important differences between Maryland and Rhode Island. For starters, Maryland ranks 19th in population (6.2 million residents) compared to Rhode Island (ranked 45th with 1.1 million) — that means online poker operators have much more to lose if Maryland were to set up expanded igaming in the same fashion as Rhode Island.

Also consider that Bally’s has a monopoly on igaming in Rhode Island, and Bally’s doesn’t have a poker platform. But there are four potential operators who could come to Maryland — BetMGM, PokerStars, Run It Once, and WSOP — and Maryland has signaled that it is keen to launch multi-state poker and to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) possibly.

Interest in Maryland online poker and online casino is running high, especially after a report commissioned by state regulators revealed earlier this month that the two verticals would generate $533.4 million in gross gaming revenue in 2026, with revenue climbing to $921.1 million in 2032.