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Hundreds of thousands of Maryland drivers thought getting the license tag for their cars to commemorate the War of 1812 was an interesting and patriotic thing to do, I guess. I’m not sure why people choose the tags they do, but that’s not important. Despite the Marylanders’ best intentions, while commemorating the War against the British, they were also advertising a Filipino gambling website on their license tags without knowing it. How in the world does that happen? Check those domain names, people. 

Maryland War of 1812 License Plate
Maryland War of 1812 License Plate | Flickr

How did Marylanders unknowingly advertise for a gambling website?

According to Vice, in 2012, the state of Maryland wanted to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 by adding a commemorative license plate to read “MARYLAND WAR OF 1812.” The state made these the default plates from 2012-2016. And printed at the bottom of each and every tag was the website domain “” (warning this link is to an active gambling site), bright and clear for all to read. 

At some point within the last year, the site stopped bringing people who wanted to learn more about how the Maryland resident Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” amid the War of 1812; instead, it brought knowledge seekers to a Filipino gambling site called The home page features a woman in a bikini urging visitors to enjoy the “Philippines best betting site.” 

What happened here? 

Many of the details are unclear. According to Vice, tracking down when the site changed has proven to be pretty tricky. The domain name has changed ownership a few times over the years, yet no one seems to know exactly when the site moved from American history to gambling. 

As with most newly discovered things these days, the finder took the discovery straight to Reddit, where they said, “I was never a fan of having a plate celebrating the War of 1812, but I’m even more upset now that I (and tons of other Marylanders) are driving advertisements for international online gambling.”

It seems as recently as December 2022; the site was still showing facts about the war and telling the story of FSK. However, it certainly doesn’t sing that song today. According to Vice, the site has a different message, part of which is that “Extremely lenient laws govern gaming” in the Philippines. “This is a result of the growing popularity of gambling among tourists and the enormous casino resorts that have recently been built.” 

What is Maryland going to do about the wavy license tags? 

The homepage of the gambling site that Maryland license plates are advertising
Homepage of |

This is a pretty big and strange problem. A spokesperson from the Maryland Department of Transportation says that nearly 800,000 people are using the funky tags on their cars. The Maryland DOT issued the following statement to address the concern: 

“The website printed on the plates is not owned by the Motor Vehicle Administration. The plates’ design and content originated from the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission created in 2007. Star-Spangled 200, Inc. is the nonprofit entity affiliated with the Commission that led the efforts to raise funds for bicentennial projects and events,” they said. “The MVA does not endorse the views or content on the current website using that URL and is working with the agency’s IT department to identify options to resolve the current issue.”

I guess this can serve as a good reminder to check the ownership of domain names. Thankfully, the site didn’t turn into anything worse.