Home » Oops, Nearly 800,000 Maryland License Plates Now Accidentally Promote A Filipino Gambling Site

Oops, Nearly 800,000 Maryland License Plates Now Accidentally Promote A Filipino Gambling Site

Maryland License Plates Topshot
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While license plate problems typically center around durability concerns, Maryland is currently experiencing something far more embarrassing. The state known for Big Bill Hell’s Cars and heaping Old Bay on everything is staring down the barrel of a license plate SNAFU of comical proportions: Nearly 800,000 license plates are now advertising a Filipino gambling website.

Maryland License Plates

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So how could something like this happen? Well, it starts with misty-eyed history. Maryland is proud of the War of 1812, which is stupid because it happened 200 years ago and nobody won. Francis Scott Key, a Marylander, apparently got the inspiration for “The Star Spangled Banner” from the bombing of Fort McHenry, but we’re talking a war of identity rather than territory gains or leadership change here.

Anyway, 2012 was the bicentennial of this spat and Maryland wanted to celebrate this with a special default license plate. From 2012 to 2016, every standard Maryland license plate carried the URL www.starspangled200.com, which directed distracted drivers to a website containing the story behind the national anthem. Notice the past-tense “directed,” because it doesn’t do that anymore. Somewhere along the line, someone forgot to renew the URL. Uh-oh.

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According to domain registration records, the anthem info domain was last updated on Nov. 7, 2022, and that update redirected web users to a Filipino online casino with particularly dodgy-looking web design. Seriously, it looks like a place you’d pirate the recipe to Chef Boyardee ravioli from rather than a legitimate business.

Vice reports that roughly 798,000 of these license plates are currently active, which sounds pretty bad. However, Maryland is a front plate state, meaning that roughly 399,000 vehicles are accidentally advertising gambling. Still not great, but it softens the blow a little bit. Believe it or not, this all could’ve been avoided if it weren’t for the scourge of outsourcing.

Maryland License Plates Domain History

Ashley Millner, spokesperson for Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, told the Washington Post, “The URL is not and was never owned or maintained by the MVA.” I beg your pardon? While third-party outfits on license plates aren’t unheard-of, this isn’t quite like Texas having a Mighty Fine Burgers license plate because the initial owner of the starspangled200 domain name was the official Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. Created by executive order, this commission was reportedly shut down in the past few years, and whatever plan to sunset the URL clearly doesn’t seem to have been adequate.

While it’s easy to laugh at this whole situation, it could be an expensive problem to rectify. Either Maryland will need to repurchase the URL or the state will need to replace all affected license plates in order to sweep this embarrassment under the rug. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, isn’t it?

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(Photo credits: eBay, globeinternational, who.is)

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D-dub
D-dub
1 year ago

I’ve got one two of these on my car. I was always amazed by their decision to double up and shrink in half two of the alphanumerics in order to make room for the flag on the plate. They intentionally made their own license plates less functional in order to promote a side project.

Last edited 1 year ago by D-dub
Unclesam
Unclesam
1 year ago

I love how endearingly salty Canadians get about 1812…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Oh no, non blurred pictures of license plates on the internet.
The scammers are gonna go nuts.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Quick! Someone put their thumb over the computer screen! /s

D.B. Platypus
D.B. Platypus
1 year ago

I always thought those plates were hideous anyway.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Yet another reason to trust over paid government workers to run everything.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 year ago

It’s Maryland. This problem will fix itself soon enough as I feel license plates on those roads have a life-span of about 7 minutes before they get bashed into unreadableness.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 year ago

My mom is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet but she’s always picked odd grudges to hold against things (I’ve still never actually eaten Baskin Robbins ice cream for that reason).

One of her stubborn vendttas was when they added a web address to Pennsylvania’s license plate many years ago now. She hated computers and the internet (still kind of does) and was furious that the license plate on her car would have a web address of any kind on it. In fact, she got a vanity plate then solely because she could get one that didn’t have a URL on it.

Maybe this just proves she was right all along and we shouldn’t be putting URLs on license plates if we can’t be 100% confident that we’ll keep that domain forever.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I feel like putting URLs on license plates is kind of dated – reminds me of the 1990s when businesses and organizations were just so excited to be online that they wanted their Web address on everything (I worked for a place that had it embroidered on employees’ shirts in two places, left chest and right shoulder, just to make sure people saw it). Feel like we don’t really need to do that anymore, if someone’s interested, they’ll just Bing it

Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I still remember the first time I saw a URL on a billboard, although I don’t remember which blockbuster movie it was promoting, probably one of the Star Wars prequels. I decided maybe this WWW thing really did have a future.

Tacofan
Tacofan
1 year ago

The DMV just needs to issue a sticker of a new URL to cover up the old one. http://www.starspanked.org ( I’m sure this leads to another site about the star spangled banner)….

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Tacofan

I am pretty sure common sense tells us it will link to a porn site.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 year ago
Reply to  Tacofan

…must… not…click…random…link!

AAAIIIGGHH!!!

Tacofan
Tacofan
1 year ago
Reply to  Tacofan

I did check the link before I posted.. I know it goes nowhere……yet.

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Tacofan

Thought the same thing too. Make it a 2024 sticker to make the owners of those specific plates to cover the URL up. And no more URLs to embarrass.

Dean Reimer
Dean Reimer
1 year ago

I don’t know, that website doesn’t reek of big-budget sophistication to me. You could just hire a white-hat to run an ongoing DDOS attack on the site so that the URL just errors out.

Jb996
Jb996
1 year ago
Reply to  Dean Reimer

Except that running a DDoS attack against a non-cooperative site, which is otherwise minding their own business, and which may even be technically legally compliant (in the Philippines), is not a White-Hat job. That would be illegal.

Dean Reimer
Dean Reimer
1 year ago
Reply to  Jb996

Fair enough!

Goof
Goof
1 year ago

Seriously, it looks like a place you’d pirate the recipe to Chef Boyardee ravioli from rather than a legitimate business.

Well, then it’s a good thing they were able to get Mama Mia to endorse it!

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

This reminds me of the time when I was in school (long enough ago that schools still had “computer labs”) and the internet was still novel. A well-meaning Social Studies teacher encouraged us to visit the White House’s website but got onto mental autopilot and said “.com” instead of “.gov” when telling us the URL.

Anyone who has made the same mistake will understand that the class received quite an education that day, though not the one that our teacher had in mind.

I don’t know if the “.com” version is still what it was back then, but I urge you not to check if you happen to be at work… or at all, for that matter.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

“Duke!! what are you doing!”
Honest mom it’s for school!!

At a similar time, I was at work and misspelled “yahoo”.. yikes!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

I am old enough to remember when schools had no computer classes. First offered to me was in college as an elective. Not sure if it was basic, fortran, dos or another but yeah. Im old

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

And my dad was one of those early teachers who wrote class material as it was before there -were- any textbooks. His class material became text books.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

Still better than the URL for the Department of Motor Vehicles on California plates. Nobody willingly wants to go to the DMV website, so I have no idea why anyone would think it’s a good idea to put it on millions of cars.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 year ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Or Florida’s myFlorida.com plates instead of saying just ‘Florida’. It’s beyond tacky.

https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/812SiKHSMEL.jpg

Live2ski
Live2ski
1 year ago

how many people were actually affected by this – 10?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Live2ski

There’s loads of those plates in circulation, they issued a lot of them and owners seem to have kept them. Lot of business fleets, too

Live2ski
Live2ski
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

not who had the plate, but actually went to the website

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Live2ski

You’re right, probably very few people doing that now 11 years later

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

Would it be illegal to put tape or a stroke of paint over the URL? Feeling practical today.

Uncle Cholmondeley
Uncle Cholmondeley
1 year ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

Not illegal! Wikipedia:

Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that New Hampshire could not constitutionally require citizens to display the state motto upon their license plates when the state motto was offensive to their moral convictions.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

Whether that ruling applies here has never been tested in court, there are several states with laws on the books that prohibit covering any part of the plate – in Pennsylvania’s case, its a primary offense to cover the website, not sure about Maryland. But the Wooley decision was over compelled speech promoting a certain viewpoint against someone’s religious beliefs (making members of a pacifist religion display a motto promoting that notion that being killed fighting is preferable to living under tyranny, when they’re against all wars entirely), whether a web address falls under that would have to go before the court, as of now, who knows? You could argue that the site literally promoted war, since it was a commemoration of a war, but it was Maryland’s standard, default plate for 6 years without anyone challenging it, so the constitutionality was never tested.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Given the fiasco I really doubt Maryland would push the issue as long as the delete was limited only to the URL Bringing this to court only allows someone to publicly grandstand the state’s mistake.

One relatively easy if not cheap solution would be to offer free licence plate frames that covered the URL.

Uncle Cholmondeley
Uncle Cholmondeley
1 year ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

No, not illegal: Wikipedia:

Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that New Hampshire could not constitutionally require citizens to display the state motto upon their license plates when the state motto was offensive to their moral convictions.

Jb996
Jb996
1 year ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

In most states, it’s only required that the number and year are unobscured.

Hence why many cars get dealer surround boarders, that people seem to leave on and do free advertising for years and years with.
That’s a pet peeve of mine.

And yes, I take off the sticky permanent dealer name too. If a dealer wants me to leave it on, I’m willing to discuss terms for an advertising contract.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago
Reply to  Jb996

“That’s a pet peeve of mine”

Mine too. I kept the plate frame but painted over the dealer name.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Yeah, I’ll take the free plastic frame to protect the plate, but I will sharpie the white lettering.

Erik Hancock
Erik Hancock
1 year ago

I feel like someone should tell John Oliver so he can use some of that HBO money to grab the domain name and then, when Last Week Tonight comes back from the writers’ strike, turn it into an escalating hostage negotiation with the MVA.

TheCrank
TheCrank
1 year ago

I had this regular issue plate on my car from when I first moved to MD from VA. I hated it for several reasons and was happy to order a replacement plate as soon as they changed the regular issue design a few years ago.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

This is another reason to add to why I personally dislike overly complicated, bust, and non-standard license plate designs. Just have the number, the state name, and maybe, maybe a state motto if you have to, and leave it at that.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Absolutely. Wisconsin has had the same basic plate for decades. Thanks to the simplicity and easy-to-recognize design, I can tell where the slow, oblivious driver in front of me is from nearly a quarter-mile away.

Gubbin
Gubbin
1 year ago

Yeah, similar with IL plates for spotting FIBs.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Illinois plates are too busy, what with creeper-Lincoln, the Chicago skyline, the state capitol, etc. From a distance, it can blend in with other lousy plate designs.

Zerosignal
Zerosignal
1 year ago

Minnesota has had the same plates since the late 70s. The only changes over the years have been adding the word “Explore” next to Minnesota to promote our tourism board in 1987, and switching from embossed to screen printed plates and adding “.com” after Minnesota to promote the tourism board’s website in 2009. If it works, why change it.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Zerosignal

Yeah, my state’s had the same basic design since 1958, only big change was going from stamped/embossed to cheaper screen printing in 1970. I like it, just numbers on a background. I don’t need the plate to be a decoration on my car, I just want it to display the legally required information and not clutter things up with a loud, gaudy design

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

This is why I love the standard Connecticut plates. They used to be just solid blue with White lettering and the state name and motto. They changed the background to a Blue to white fade with and a blue lettering.

D.B. Platypus
D.B. Platypus
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

What bugged me is that the previous standard Maryland design was pretty simple, clean, and classy. It did have a website, but it was just the state’s basic domain — http://www.maryland.gov or something similar.

But they discontinued that almost-timeless design for this gimmicky crap that looked like it was thrown together from ’90s free clip art.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 year ago

It’s bad, but it could have been something so, so much worse than a gambling site.

TheCrank
TheCrank
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

It still could be!

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 year ago
Reply to  TheCrank

I am working on it as I type!

Jb996
Jb996
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Would love to see another neighboring state (Vermont or whatever) buy it, and link to their own tourism/business development information.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

You misspelled “better.”

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