January 18, 2024Lauren

We’re halfway through January, which means mainly one thing: legislative seasons are open in states nationwide, and new bills are hitting the floor. This week, we’re discussing:

- Maryland considering greenlighting iGaming
- Pennsylvania’s $8+m contribution for responsible gambling in 2022-23 FY
- New York’s iGaming bill progress
- A NJ report which has found that iGaming is “detrimental” to the economy
- NJ Lawmakers to consider cutting ads and allowing slots on racetracks (again)
- And our slot game of the week is Book of Armadillo by Armadillo Studios

Get the latest industry updates and insights each week from Casino Cabbie.

News and Analysis

Maryland Considers Greenlighting iGaming

Maryland Senator Ron Watson has announced he will introduce an iGaming and Poker proposal for the second year running during Maryland’s 2024 legislative session, which opened on Wednesday (17th Jan).

According to the state’s legislation tracker, the bill hasn’t yet been registered, but local newspapers are already reporting on it. This year’s bill edition differs from the 2023 version as it features significantly increased taxes, up from 15% to 46%+. 

The tax increase likely aims to satisfy opposition from the land-based casino industry. However, it doesn’t look good for online operators, as markets with a similarly high tax rate (Delaware) have stagnated since approving online gaming.

Should the bill pass (through the House, Senate, and then a public referendum), it’s expected to help relieve the state’s $400 million budget deficit.

Pennsylvania Contributed $8+m for Responsible Gambling in 2022-23

According to the Compulsive and Problem Gambling Report for 2023 (covering from July 2022 to June 2023), Pennsylvania contributed $8.3m towards responsible gambling. The report states that:

  • Approximately 48% of the funds were used for “the purpose of problem gambling needs assessments and prevention, outreach, and education programs, and other DDAP-approved services.” 
  • 17% was distributed directly to gambling treatment providers to provide outpatient gambling counseling. 
  • The remaining 35% was used for administration, oversight of the programs, training, and Helpline services associated with problem gambling.

During the period, 2834 helpline calls were made, an increase of 433 from the previous period. Additionally, “most callers were White men calling for themselves. The most frequently reported precipitating problem was financial hardship due to gambling (68%), and the most frequently identified type of problematic gambling was internet (30%).” 

iGaming off the Table? New York Hopes Dashed for 2024-2025

Alongside Maryland, New York is working hard to legalize iGaming as Senator Joseph Addabbo has again introduced an iGaming bill (S 8185). However, Governor Kathy Hochul released her executive budget yesterday (17th Jan) for the financial year 2025 without inclusions for NY online casinos, which means it’s now much more challenging for Senator Addabbo’s bill to gain traction.

S 8185 is similar to the 2023 draft and includes provisions for ten licenses at the cost of $2-$10m per application, a 30.5% tax rate of which 0.025% would be contributed to responsible gambling. The proposals estimate that New York could benefit from $1bn more in annual tax revenue should the bill pass.

NJ Report: iGaming “Detrimental” to Economy

A report conducted by the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) has concluded that iGaming is a “net negative” to the New Jersey economy. The report cautions that the cost of problem gambling cancels out tax contributions made by the industry, causing overall losses to the state.

Additionally, as the sector employs fewer people than the land-based industry, less money is reinvested in the New Jersey economy than expected. According to NERA, iGaming paid $110m in NJ wages in 2022, generating $22m in spending. If the same expenditure was seen in another industry, like dining, the report projected it would lead to $1bn in wages and generate $200m in spending.

While recognizing the powerful tax benefits the industry brings, the report argues that the cost of responsible gambling negatives (including healthcare, welfare, homelessness, and criminal justice) outweighs the tax benefits, based on economic studies and evidence from the UK.

The report is enlightening and should prompt lawmakers and regulators in NJ as well as across the whole of the US to consider more carefully the legitimacy of the gambling boom as well as protection measures for US players, especially in light of the growing problem gambling rates (NJ has a 6% rate of problem gamblers, three times the national average). However, it’s important to note that the UK has a very different public healthcare and welfare system from the states and, therefore, different spending.

New Jersey Revenue Smashes Records for 2023

NERA’s report comes alongside news of the New Jersey market breaking revenue records for 2023 and reporting an all-time high of $5.78bn. With total revenue up 10.9% in 2022, the NJ market grew across all three major verticals - land-based casinos, online casinos, and sports betting.

The land-based industry remained at the front, taking $2.86bn in revenue (up 2.2% YoY), iGaming stood at $1.92bn (15.7%+ YoY), and sports betting hit over $1bn for the first time ($1.1bn to be exact, up 31.9% YoY).

Other News

  • Vermont races towards OSB success: The Vermont legal sports betting market went live at midnight on 11th Jan with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fanatics open for bets. 
  • Curb NJ ads and allow racetrack slots: Two bills have been introduced to the NJ Senate for consideration. The first seeks to allow slot machines at horse racing tracks, and the second wants to restrict gambling advertising in the Garden State to protect vulnerable players better. Both bills have failed to pass in previous years.

Game of the Week

Book of Armadillo Slot - Armadillo Studios, RTP:94.1%

Book of Armadillo Slot is brand new and based on the player-loved “book of” theme, except, in this title, it’s a cheeky armadillo taking to the Maya rainforests as the explorer extraordinaire.

Set on 5x3 reels with 10 lines, the game includes Free Spins, Wilds (also the Scatter), Expanding Symbols, Armadillo Cash Symbols, and Golden Book wagers. To start making line wins, you’ll need to land 3+ matching symbols from left to right on a payline. 

Book or Armadillo Slot Gameplay

You can play either in regular mode or the Golden Book Wager mode, which increases the bet by 70%. In return for the increased wager, Golden Armadillo Cash Tokens of 1-1000x become available on the reels, and there’s a supped-up “Golden” version of Free Spins. 

  • Regular Free Spins: 3+ Scatters trigger 10 Free Spins with Expanding Symbols. You can re-trigger the round by getting another 3 Scatter on the reels. 
  • Golden Armadillo Spins: 3+ Scatter and 1 Armadillo Book gets you 10 Golden Spins with up to 3 Expanding symbols. Get 2+ regular Scatter or 1+ Armadillo book for 5 extra spins.

Are you ready to join the reels and unearth hidden treasures? Then it’s time to spin. Bets start from $0.20, and the maximum win with this high volatility slot is 5,733x stake. You can play this title at EveryMatrix online casinos in the USA.

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