Maryland Poker Laws

Online Gambling in Maryland
Maryland Poker Laws
Last Updated October 23, 2018

Maryland is a unique state when it comes to the issue of online poker.  As most poker players from the state know, getting online to play poker can be a challenge in Maryland.  That’s not to say it’s impossible for Marylanders to play online poker, but there is definitely information you’ll want to review before playing real-money poker online.

Maryland is one of those states in the US where players do have fewer options for playing poker for real cash online.  While their options may be fewer, that doesn’t equate to no options whatsoever.  In fact, some of the top US-friendly poker sites welcome Maryland players – but it’s limited to a few.

We’ll discuss that information, along with a broader survey of gambling in Maryland, in our Guide to Playing Online Poker in Maryland.

Maryland Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

Type/CodeSummary
State Code Section(s)10.1.V; 12-13
Definition of Gambling & PlayerGaming device: A gaming table, except a billiard table, at which a game of chance is played for money or any other thing or consideration of value, or
a game or device at which money or any other thing or consideration of value is bet, wagered, or gambled.

Illegal gaming activities: A person may not bet, wager, or gamble; make or sell a book or pool on the result of a race, contest, or contingency; establish, keep, rent, use, or occupy, or knowingly allow to be established, kept, rented, used, or occupied, all or a part of a building, vessel, or place, on land or water, within the State, for the purpose of betting, wagering, or gambling; receive, become the depository of, record, register, or forward, or propose, agree, or pretend to forward, money or any other thing or consideration of value, to be bet, wagered, or gambled on the result of a race, contest, or contingency.

Online Poker/GamblingSome lawmakers discussed an online poker bill in 2012 but have yet to bring one to the broader legislature for consideration. There is speculation that Maryland is ripe for online poker and casino games, and its casinos tend to be supportive, but there has been no action taken.
Live PokerThe poker rooms in Maryland casinos are very popular, offering cash games and tournaments.
CasinosThere are fully-functional casinos in six Maryland counties, all of which offer all types of gambling, including table games like poker.
Sports BettingBills remain on the table in the House and Senate to legalize sports betting in Maryland, in connection with the state’s casinos.
DFSBills introduced in 2018 seek to regulate daily fantasy sports, but the legislature has not voted on final proposals. DFS is already exempted from the state’s gambling prohibitions.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse and harness racing, pari-mutuel betting, lottery, bingo and raffles, charitable gambling.

 

Is Online Poker Legal in Maryland?

Any discussion of the legality of online poker – or any form of gambling, really – has to begin with a caveat: Don’t rely on the Internet for legal advice.  Get in touch with a lawyer who has gambling-related experience in your state if you have any question of consequence.

However, if you’re just a poker player with a casual interest in the state law of Maryland as it pertains to playing poker in Maryland or gambling online, we can simplify the process.  The complete Maryland state code below, and it’s suggested that you review it.  To help you with what can be a dense read, here are some of the most important parts presented in laymans terms:

While most states provide a definition of gambling, Maryland instead relies on a broad prohibition of the basic act of gambling.  It’s illegal to “bet, wager or gamble” (Section 12-102) in the state, with no further definitions provided for any of those terms.

Maryland doesn’t distinguish between players and those involved in the business of illegal gambling to the same degree as the average US state.  Participants face far tougher penalties (at least theoretically) than they would in neighboring states.

Poker players could also run into trouble with Section 12-103, which prohibits playing a “gaming device” for anything of value.  You might not think of a deck of cards and a kitchen table as gaming devices, but Maryland law is broad on this point, defining a gaming device as basically anything involved in the playing of a game that involves betting or wagering: “a gaming table, except a billiard table, at which a game of chance is played for money or any other thing or consideration of value; or(ii) a game or device at which money or any other thing or consideration of value is bet, wagered, or gambled” (Section 12-101(1)).

Finally, the possession of a “gaming device” (or a financial interest in such a device) is also a violation of the law in Maryland (Section 12-104).  Again, the sweeping definition raises questions regarding exactly what players can and can’t have by the letter of the law.

Maryland gambling law does vary from county to county, so it’s important to become familiar not only with state law, but with your local law as well.

As you can see, Maryland law regarding gambling in general, and therefore poker specifically, is a complicated animal.  Hopefully this starting point has gotten you closer to answers for your questions about online poker sites and the law in Maryland.

Will Maryland Regulate Online Poker?

Possibly.  Online gambling was on the table, albeit briefly, in 2012 when the state was discussing gambling expansion plans.  Online poker was eventually dropped from that package, but it’s still a big step closer than some other US states are to getting online poker regulated.  We expect legislation addressing online poker to come up in Maryland in 2018, although it may be a bit longer than that before a bill actually can actually pass into law.

Maryland Gambling Facts

Maryland is actually in the midst of what most would consider to be their third wave of gambling expansion.  The first was in the 1800s, when several American states had rather liberal attitudes toward various forms of gambling in both private and public settings.  The next was in the 1950s, when slots were briefly legalized in some Maryland counties.  The final, and current, wave stretches back to 1973, when Maryland sold their first lottery ticket and continues to this day, most recently with the vote to once again expand gambling in November 2012.

Regulated Gambling Options in Maryland

All of the big five regulated gambling options are available in Maryland except for one – tribal gambling.  That leaves pari-mutuel wagering, casino-style gambling, the Maryland lottery and a nice selection of charitable-focused gambling on the regulated gambling menu for Marylanders.  Maryland is easily in the top tier of states when it comes to quantity and depth of regulated gambling activity.

Does Maryland Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

Not yet, but it appears as if it’s only a matter of time before you can play at a Maryland-licensed online poker room.  The state is heading toward regulation, and it might be more than poker when all is said and done.  However, the law takes some time to change, and until Maryland changes theirs, the status quo is that Marylanders don’t have any state-regulated online gambling options.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Maryland in the News

Maryland Gambling Resources

Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling.  Find resources and get in direct contact with qualified counselors at the home page for the Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling.

Maryland Live Casino.  The rundown on the gaming and entertainment options at one of Maryland’s largest gambling facilities.

University of Maryland School of Medicine.  The Center on Problem Gambling, housed at the university, takes a scientific approach to understanding and treating gambling addiction.

Maryland’s Place in Poker History

Maryland can count on a permanent place in the history of poker based on the state’s performance in one event – the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.  There’s Steve Dannenmann, who took 2nd in the 2005 Main Event.  There’s also Darvin Moon, who stormed his way to the final table on a massive chip stack before eventually also finishing runner-up in the 2009 WSOP.

It took Maryland a few years to get there, but a WSOP championship was finally brought home to the state in 2012, when native son Greg Merson (sporting a Baltimore Orioles jersey, no less) finally broke the second-place-curse, defeating Jesse Sylvia after a 400-hand heads up marathon.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has been followed the US market closely for the last 7 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.