You would probably not expect a state’s license plate to feature an address that directs people to an online gambling site. And yet that’s precisely the case for around 800,000 Maryland license plates, which feature a URL that now sends users to a number of online casinos based in the Philippines. To be fair, that’s not what the URL began its life as — which heightens the confusion, as well as the mystery of how we got to this point.
As Katie Shepherd and Michael Laris reported for The Washington Post, roughly 15% of the vehicles registered in the state of Maryland — the figure cited in the article is 798,000 — have license plates commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Those plates feature a URL — www.starspangled200.org — which at one point sent interested parties to a website focusing on Maryland’s history. Needless to say, it no longer does so.
Maryland resident Samuel Zehr is credited in the article with being the first person to raise awareness of the issue. In a Reddit post, Zehr found that the URL above was directing people to different historically-themed sites through at least 2020. At some point between then and now, things changed.
According to the Post‘s reporting, local officials are considering multiple options to address the issue, including replacing the license plates with the offending URL or attempting to purchase the URL from the online gambling company that now controls it. The state’s Motor Vehicle Administration also stressed to the Post that they had never owned nor maintained the URL.
Massachusetts Pauses License Plate Surveillance ProgramGlitches led to inaccuracies in the data
It’s always jarring when a familiar URL turns into something new — a situation that has taken place countless times over the years, as domain and site owners let their registration lapse and other interested parties move in. Strangely, Maryland’s license plate issue isn’t the most egregious case of this in the news this week. City & State recently reported on a New York City Council member whose campaign website was taken over by a porn website from 2021 to earlier this year. Maryland residents and officials, take solace in this: it could have been much worse.
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