Saturday August 4,2012 : MARYLAND ONLINE GAMBLING LEGALISATION COULD FACE OBSTACLES
Senior politicians less than enthusiastic about the idea
The news Thursday that Maryland lawmakers are to consider the legalization of online gambling in the state as part of a gambling expansion program has been quickly followed by reports of opposition to the concept.
The Baltimore Sun says that key senators on the committee that handles casino-related matters have already rejected the notion of taking up the issue of Internet gambling during next week's special session, saying there isn't enough time to weigh the implications of a very important and far-reaching issue.
The newspaper identifies four Democratic legislators on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, each a supporter of other forms of gambling expansion, who said Friday that they are not prepared to sort through the complex issues surrounding online gambling in a session that is expected to last less than a week.
They were reacting to an email from House Speaker and fellow Democrat Michael Busch, who put the internet gambling issue on the agenda for next week's special meeting on gambling expansion in the state.
The Speaker has the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who said through a spokesperson that he agrees that online gambling should be part of next Thursday's discussion.
Sen.Edward J. Kasemeyer, who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said he is reluctant to deal with Internet gambling next week because there are many unanswered questions, and his committee has not yet held hearings on the pros and cons of the topic. He is also concerned that the introduction of such a controversial subject may result in a more protracted session when there is already a busy agenda facing lawmakers.
"It just seems to have a lot of implications potentially that I'm not aware of," he said. "What does it mean? What is it all about?"
Senate President Thomas V. Miller, the legislature's leading proponent of gambling expansion, is on record as wanting the special meeting to reach decisions in three days, which the inclusion of internet gambling could impact.
Three other Democrats on the budget committee bluntly dismissed the idea of considering Internet gambling, the Sun reports.
"It just seems to open up a can of worms," said Sen. Roger Manno, whilst Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell commented: "I don't know how you can control it for individuals under 21. I really think it's irresponsible."
"It may be a bit of overkill," said Sen. Nathaniel McFadden. "You can put too many bulbs on the Christmas tree and it'll fall down."
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell told the Baltimore Sun that the ramifications of Internet gambling need to be thoroughly vetted. "To do this in a special session and make decisions, it's horrible," he said, adding that he has serious concerns on the subject and opining: "It just seems like gambling proliferation on steroids."
Even Speaker Busch professed gaps in his knowledge of online gambling, saying: "I don't have enough background on it. It would be unfair of me to discuss it [before the special meeting]."
For now, at least, internet gambling remains on the agenda, but it is remarkable that senior politicians appear to have so little knowledge on a subject that has received so much publicity and has been so widely debated.
That has been especially the case since December last year, when the Department of Justice's declaration that the Wire Act applies only to online sports betting triggered a blizzard of interest across the US states on legalization and the tax revenues it could generate.