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Maryland’s eSports Act to Take Effect this Year

June 3, 2019

On April 30, 2019, Governor Larry Hogan approved the eSports Act, which provides legal recognition and regulation to Maryland eSports competitions.  Previously, it was not clear whether eSports competitions constituted gambling under Maryland Law.  According to the Department of Legislative Services of the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland State Lottery and the Maryland Gaming Control Agency both reported that video game manufacturers often cite in their official rules that Maryland residents are precluded from entering into and playing in video game competitions due to the State’s gaming law restrictions.  The eSports Act defines “eSports Competition” as a competition involving video games, including first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and multi-player online battle arenas in which players compete against each other and the dominant element determining the results is the relative skill of the players.  The Act allows the competition’s sponsor to award prize money or merchandise to winners of the competition. Forthcoming regulations will provide more clarity on the law and will probably address the legality of entry fees.  Notably, the Act does not include specific prohibitions on wagering on the results of an eSports competition.  Currently, Maryland does not permit any type of sports wagering, but legislation authorizing the state lottery to conduct sports betting is in the legislature and may ultimately include esports competitions.  The eSports Act shall take effect October 1, 2019.  As sports betting launches in Pennsylvania at the same time eSports is gaining huge popularity in participation and viewership, the state legislature may choose to regulate this industry.  Stay tuned for updates and contact experienced attorneys at McNees Wallace & Nurick for assistance with any esports related issue.