Maryland: Bill seeking to allow casino owners to contribute to political campaigns introduced

Maryland Del. Jon Cardin has introduced legislation that would allow casino owners to make political campaign contributionsHouse Bill 54 would allow gaming license holders, or casino owners, the ability to make contributions to state legislators.

Cardin said the law would permit the equal treatment of similar entities in the gambling world and that it would lead to “an equal playing field.” Currently, casinos are the only entities banned from making campaign contributions in the state. In 2012, a law was passed to stem the lucrative industry’s influence over the Maryland General Assembly.

This is not Cardin’s first attempt to bring the issue of political contributions to the table, reports Baltimore Business Journal. Last year, he introduced a bill that would have instead banned the owners of sports gambling companies from contributing to campaigns prior to the practice’s legalization, but the bill never received a second hearing. Unlike casinos, there is no explicit law banning sportsbook owners from donating to legislators’ political campaigns.

During a hearing last Tuesday from the Ways and Means Committee, Cardin stated he is still committed to creating “consistency” in the industry, even if it means introducing a bill that would allow for more contributions instead of fewer.

Aerial view of Baltimore

“I believe that our number one priority on legislation that we are passing is to try and create consistency, transparency and integrity in government processes,” he stated, as reported by the cited source, and further said his main concern is that these contributions are now treating two players in the same industry differently. 

To date, individuals and companies that own more than 5% of a gaming license are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. However, the same rules do not apply to companies and individuals who own more than this percentage when it comes to sports wagering companies, as well as racetracks or bingo hall owners. 

As per Baltimore Business Journal, Jason Buckel, a delegate from Allegheny County, said: “We let bail bondsmen, opioid manufacturers, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, people who own adult entertainment establishments, we let all of them donate to anyone.”

Cardin said that the current legal landscape has led owners of casinos to exploit loopholes in the law by giving contributions to legislators through entities not directly related to the casino. The lawmaker feels that his bill would create a more consistent process. It remains to be seen whether Cardin’s latest attempt will reach the House floor this session.