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House, Senate have different Internet lottery provisions in budget

When lottery retailers complained, Gov. Martin O'Malley put a halt to the Lottery Agency's plan to create iLottery. (File Photo)

House and Senate versions of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s operating budget proposal attack the future of Internet lottery sales in different ways, potentially setting up a mini-showdown over the fate of iLottery.

While the difference in legislative language does not appear to be so significant that it could put a budget deal between the two chambers in jeopardy, the Senate has made clear that it wants the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to put a permanent halt to creation of a website were Marylanders could buy and play traditional lottery games.

While both the House of Delegates and the Senate eliminated nearly $400,000 budgeted for development of such a website in fiscal year 2014, the House retained language that would allow the Lottery to develop a system of online gambling provided it sought the counsel of retailers and held a public meeting.

The Senate, however, struck that language during its budget decisions.

Senate Bill 272, passed by the Senate 46-0 last month, would take away the Lottery’s authority to develop and implement iLottery. The bill was drafted after retailers complained to O’Malley and members of the Budget and Taxation Committee that allowing Internet sales of lottery games, such as scratch-offs, would be detrimental to their business.

But the House Ways and Means Committee has not scheduled a hearing for the bill and is not expected to spring it to the full House. Some members of the panel are reluctant to reduce the regulatory authority of the Lottery.

Though O’Malley’s office already put the breaks on Internet lottery after retailer complaints, the Senate’s budget amendments try to ensure that work isn’t restarted at the conclusion of the General Assembly‘s 90-day session next month.

Lottery officials, who have declined to comment on Internet gambling minus a prepared statement released in January, have previously said that devising an Internet sales system would be vital to attracting younger players. Lottery revenue is expected to decrease in fiscal 2013 for the first time in 15 years, as casinos have begun to eat into the Lottery’s usual take.

The House is expected to give final approval to House Bill 100, the budget, on Friday. The Senate budget committee completed its work on the budget Thursday afternoon.