Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency director Stephen Martino, who oversaw the launch and rapid expansion of casino gambling in the state, is resigning at the end of the month.
Martino, appointed five years ago by Gov. Martin O'Malley, told agency staff in an email Tuesday that he is joining the law firm of Duane Morris as a partner in its Baltimore office.
"As I just announced at a meeting in Baltimore, I wanted all staff to know that I notified the governor's office yesterday that I am resigning my position," Martino said in the email. "It has been an honor to work with you and serve the State of Maryland during this time of extraordinary change for the agency and the state's gaming policy."
Martino's status had been uncertain since the election of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November. According to several sources, Martino was neither forced out nor assured he would remain.
Hogan's press secretary, Erin Montgomery, said Martino did not depart because the governor wanted to select his own appointee.
"Governor Hogan thanks Stephen Martino for his dedicated service as director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency," the governor's office said in a prepared statement. "The Hogan administration is actively searching for a director who will continue to improve our lottery and gaming programs in the years to come."
Martino, whose position pays about $173,000 a year, oversaw an agency of 327 people with an operating budget of $142 million.
A former Kansas racing and gaming regulator, Martino was appointed in 2010, the year the state's first casino opened — Hollywood Casino Perryville. Maryland now has five casinos and a sixth on the way. He also oversaw a lottery system that he called in his email "one of the most accomplished in the world, annually sending more than half a billion dollars to the state general fund."
David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., owner of the Maryland Live casino, credited Martino with presiding over Maryland gambling from its "birth" to the present with "a sophisticated, well-run government agency."
Maryland studied other states' casino regulatory models before crafting its own rules. Each year, Martino invited casino managers to propose changes to regulations they believed had become unnecessary or outmoded, sometimes because of new technology. Many of the proposals were adopted by the state.
"Steve has played an integral role in shaping a Maryland industry that employs thousands of state residents in good paying jobs and helps fund essential services from Oakland to Ocean City," said Chad Barnhill, general manager of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, in a written statement. "He has established a regulatory framework that will serve Marylanders well by enabling the state's casinos to remain competitive with those in surrounding jurisdictions for many years to come."
Martino has called his regulatory approach "collaborative."
"He struck the right combination of government oversight and freedom for the casino operators to pursue their business models," said James Karmel, a casino analyst and history professor at Harford Community College.
Martino will continue to work on gaming issues as an attorney in private practice.
He said in his email that his work "will be focused broadly within the gaming, lottery and interactive industries along with corporate compliance, government affairs and Maryland/Baltimore business opportunities."
Martino declined comment beyond his email on Tuesday.
"All of our work has been done with integrity, transparency and a commitment to responsibility," he said in the email. "I'm proud of what we have done together and appreciate your considerable efforts, which have been the bedrock of our success."