Oops! Nearly 800,000 license plates from the state of Maryland, designed to commemorate the War of 1812, have taken on a new role as billboards for an online casino based in the Philippines. These license plates, introduced between 2012 and 2016, feature the URL www.starspangled200.org, a site initially meant to shed light on the historical conflict that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the U.S. national anthem. The commemorative license plates, once a nod to Maryland's history and patriotism, are now inadvertently promoting online gambling.
The situation came to light when a sharp-eyed Redditor discovered the unexpected website transition. Records indicate that the URL has been re-registered and transferred several times in recent years. Until December 2022, the website still served its original purpose of enlightening visitors about the War of 1812 and its significance. Today, however, it directs to a distinctly different online realm, globeinternational.info, a site touting itself as the "Philippines Best Betting Site."
A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Administration told Motherboard that "there are currently 798,000 active War of 1812 license plates."
"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."