800K Maryland License Plates Feature a Very Odd URL

Website on older plates now lead to a site that promotes online casinos in the Philippines
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2023 9:29 AM CDT
800K Maryland License Plates Feature a Very Odd URL
Sample of license plate with the casino URL.   (Maryland MVA via Fox News Digital)

Nearly 800,000 cars in Maryland are driving around with older license plates featuring a tribute to the War of 1812, as well as a URL that's causing the state's Motor Vehicle Administration a bit of a headache. Per WBAL, the plates feature a drawing of Fort McHenry, which was pivotal in the conflict during an attack by the British navy, as well as an American flag and "bombs bursting in air" (ie, fireworks). But it's the website at the bottom that's causing an issue, as it now redirects users to a site promoting online casinos based in the Philippines.

Fox News Digital notes that earlier this week, a Redditor noted that people who type "www.starspangled200.org" into their web browser get taken instead to the www.globeinternational.info portal, which tries to cajole users into playing at the "ton of excellent online casinos available in the Philippines." "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," the Redditor wrote. It turns out that the URL was originally linked to Star-Spangled 200, Inc., a nonprofit tied to the state's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, set up in 2007 to raise funds for the 200th anniversary of the war.

Vice dug into domain registration data and found that the URL has been reregistered and transferred multiple times over the past few years, and that it's "not exactly clear when it stopped being a website about American history." The Wayback Machine internet archive shows the online casino site has been popping up since at least December. The state's MVA, which notes there are about 798,000 vehicles in Maryland driving around with these plates, says it's working with its IT department to try to figure out how to remedy the situation. (More strange stuff stories.)

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