Maryland License Plates Accidentally Promote a Filipino Gambling Website

takoma park, md june 30 the license plate of a car left in the middle of the road peeks out from under branches after a massive storm the previous night brought a tree down onto it on june 30, 2012 in takoma park, maryland the severe storm has left more than a million people in the maryland, northern virginia and the district area without power and at least five dead photo by allison shelleygetty images
Lots of MD Cars' Plates List Gambling Site. Oops.Allison Shelley - Car and Driver
  • Oh, the Internet. Sometimes a website address takes you to a bicentennial history site; sometimes, that same URL brings up a site advertising gambling.

  • Most of the time, when a URL changes owners or content, it's not news. But it is when the new gambling URL can be found on almost a million official Maryland license plates.

  • The mixup came from a 2007 plan to promote the state's history with the War of 1812. After 15 years, someone forgot to renew the URL or just let it lapse. And here we are.

Around 800,000 vehicles in Maryland have been driving around with official government documents that publicly promote an online casino in the Philippines. The documents in question here are license plates, leaving few options available to anyone who'd rather not support international Internet gaming as they're out and about.

Originally spotted by Reddit user Samuel Zehr and reported by Vice, the situation here revolves around Maryland license plates that were issued between 2012 and 2016. These plates were created to commemorate the War of 1812 as part of the state's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. The commission, established in 2007, came up with many ways for citizens to learn about and remember the war, including a social studies curriculum, improvements to historic war sites in the state, and a series of bicentennial activities and events. And, of course, the idea to put a website address, or URL, on state license plates that would direct people to a page with more information about the war.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Maryland was heavily involved in the war two centuries ago, so the idea to promote local history was good while it lasted. In fact, in 2010, people in Maryland approved of the “star-spangled design,” as The Baltimore Sun called it in a poll it conducted on the new plate design at the time. The problem came after the Commission's authorization ended in June 2015, and you can probably guess how the website printed on the license plates, fell into someone else's hands.


According to Vice and the Internet Archive, the War of 1812 information was still up as of December, but since then, a new owner decided that online gambling was a better use of the domain name and adding useful information like the fact that "gambling is permitted in the Philippines" where "extremely lenient laws govern gaming." The Washington Post noted that the 798,000 now-pro-gambling license plates are on about 15 percent of all registered vehicles in Maryland.

Drivers who'd rather not promote gambling on their cars don't have a lot of easy options. Sure, they could order a new plate, but that costs money and time. Maryland does not allow drivers to use any sort of aftermarket plate cover that obscures “any of the characters of a vehicle's registration plate.” We're not sure if that applies to duct tape on top of a URL.
Perhaps what's most interesting is that a spokesperson for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration told the Washington Post that "The URL is not and was never owned or maintained by the MVA."

Seems like that's maybe something a government agency should do before printing a URL on almost a million government-issued pieces of metal that will be displayed on cars for years.

You Might Also Like