Busch says Internet gambling won't be in casino bill

August 07, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Tuesday that Internet gambling, which he had put on the agenda for the special General Assembly session on gambling expansion that begins Thursday, will not be part of the bill lawmakers consider.

"We're not going to take it up, period," the speaker said.

Busch said that after conferring with Stephen L. Martino, head of the Maryland State Lottery, about the implications of online gambling, he had decided that lawmakers do not have enough information to move forward with such an expansion.

Casino-operated Internet gambling -- which could potetntially bring slot machine gambling, electronic poker and other games to every computer and smart phone in Maryland -- has so far been approved only in Delaware. That state has yet to implement its plan.

The notion of allowing Internet gambling had not been part of the casino debate, which has centered on whether to allow a new site inPrince George's Countyand table games. But last week it surfaced among a series of demands by David Cordish, developer of the new Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills, as one of a series of measures that could lessen his opposition to a casino in Prince George's County.

Busch followed by telling Democratic delegates it was one of the subjects to be considered in the special session, but the idea received little support from members of the Senate committee that handles gambling bills.

Martino declined to discuss what he had told the speaker, but said his agency has the capability to implement an Internet gambling program if the legislature ever decides to authorize it. He said the technology exists to ensure that whoever is playing Internet games through a Maryland casino is located in the state  -- a requirement under federal law.

The lottery also said the state would be able to verify that any person who set up an account to play online was of legal age to gamble in a casino  -- one of the main concerns raised by critics. But he conceded that he knows of no foolproof system to ensure that the person who signs on is actually the account holder. Nor could he point to a way to make sure an obviously intoxicated person who might be barred from further gambling in a casino could be excluded from online gambling.

Martino said his agency has conducted no studies of the potential social effects of bringing casino gambling into people's homes and offices. He noted that the idea wasn't raised by his agency.

The lottery agency has taken no position on  the advisability of offering Internet gambling, he said. Martino said his agency will carry out the legislature's wishes.

"We'll do our best to make sure that law is enacted as it's intended," he said.

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