Senate passes Internet lottery ban; will House?

The Senate quietly passed legislation this week that would prevent what some have called an enormous electronic expansion of gambling, but the bill seems unlikely to move much further along the the legislative process.

The resounding, 46-0 vote to approve Senate Bill 272 came on Monday night, after the Budget and Taxation Committee amended the bill to remove its “emergency” tag and simplify some language. The bill would make it illegal for the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to sell lottery tickets online.

The bill, cosponsored by half of the Senate’s budget panel, was drafted in response to a plan unveiled by the state’s gambling regulators last fall that would have created an Amazon.com-like online marketplace of lottery games that could be purchased and played from any device with an Internet connection.

Brick-and-mortar retailers immediately opposed the bill, saying it would hurt their business. Gov. Martin O’Malley subsequently ordered the Lottery to stop its work on the Internet project.

The Senate bill seeks to prevent the agency from taking the issue up again. Lawmakers say the Lottery has too much power, and should not be able to launch the “iLottery” program unless the General Assembly allows.

The bill has been assigned to the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee, but powerful members of the panel don’t appear interested in stripping the Lottery of any regulatory authority. A hearing has not been scheduled.

Eighteen other states already have some form of Internet lottery, are in the process of implementing one or are considering one. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that legalized online gambling.

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