Maryland Considers iGaming Expansion to Offset Covid Losses

A key Maryland House committee heard testimony from the director of the state’s Lottery & Gaming Control Agency suggesting a gaming expansion could help recover losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maryland lawmakers heard arguments last week from the head of the state’s gaming agency last week on whether an expansion of gaming can address budget deficits growing from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, testified before the state House Ways and Means Committee that iLottery and online gaming could go a long way to address slumping revenue due not only to casino closures, but to the closures of the state’s bars and restaurants, which account for a significant portion of lottery ticket sales.

With casinos, bars and restaurants closed between March 16 and late June, and open since then at 50 percent capacity, gaming contributions are already down 27.3 percent compared to 2019. “I think we have to accept a long-term lowering of our expected casino contributions,” Medenica told the panel.

“There really is just no place else for people to spend some discretionary entertainment dollars,” he said. “We think that has translated into people who, locked at home, have decided—especially on instant scratch-off tickets—when they’re in the grocery store, to pick up a few.”

Medenica said other states have turned to online lottery sales and online casino games to bridge at least some of their revenue gap. “Those states (that) offer iLottery have seen their iLottery sales absolutely explode,” he said, adding that lawmakers’ concerns that online lottery sales will hurt brick-and-mortar lottery sales have proven unfounded.

“From all the experience everyone’s had with iLottery, it doesn’t hurt bricks-and-mortar sales,” Medenica said.