At the end of 2019, Maryland became one of the first states to eye up legalized sports betting heading into the 2020 calendar year. A new sports betting bill, Senate Bill 58, was prefiled by State Senator Chris West.
Senate Bill 58
The summary of the bill according to LegiScan states: “Providing that the General Assembly may authorize, by law, the State Lotteryand Gaming Control Commission to issue certain sports wagering licenses; providing that a license may be issued only to the holder of a video lottery operation license or a license for thoroughbred racing or harness racing; declaring the intent of the General Assembly that State revenues generated by the proposed sports wagering be used for dedicated purposes including public education; submitting the Act to a referendum of the qualified voters of the State; etc.”
First Reading Budget and Taxation for the bill is scheduled for January 8th, 2020.
If Senate Bill 58 is approved by the state legislature, it will find its way to the election ballot in November of 2020. This would give voters in Maryland the final say in whether or not to legalize sports betting in their home state. In order for the bill be approved on the ballot, only a simple majority is needed. Then, sports betting would be legal “on the 30th day following the official canvass of votes for the referendum.” Under the bill, the biggest benefit of tax revenue would be public education.
Where Could We See Legal Sports Betting in Maryland
Whether or not sports betting will be legal at just brick-and-mortar locations or online will be decided after voting. The same goes for other key issues such as tax percentage or the type of betting that is allowed, such as betting on in-state schools/teams. Based on the success of states with mobile betting, like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, it would be a huge missed opportunity if Maryland fails to legalize state-wide mobile betting.
There are six commercial casinos located in Maryland. Assuming all six of these casinos will attempt to offer sports betting, Maryland bettors could be placing bets at Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, MGM National Harbor Casino, Maryland Live! Casino, Rocky Gap Resort Casino, Ocean Downs Casino and Hollywood Casino Perryville.
Maryland Live! Casino’s parent company, the Cordish Companies, has already partnered up with FanDuel for its sports betting services.
Is Lack of Urgency Hurting Maryland?
Maryland is in the middle of a highly saturated legal sports betting area on the east coast. Aside from Virginia, all of Maryland’s bordering states have launched legal sports betting (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware). Even Washington D.C. has already legalized sports betting.
One of the main reasons Maryland is late to the party is the fact that per the state Constitution, it is mandated that voter consent is needed in order to make any changes to commercial gambling laws. While some lawmakers believed that this vote could have been avoided by making the Maryland Lottery the regulatory body for sports betting, nothing ever became of the idea. In Maryland, new Lottery games do not require a voter referendum.
Now, Maryland is forced to wait until at least November 2020 to find out if it will have legal sports betting, assuming Senate Bill 58 makes its way to the ballot. Then, sports betting would be come legal on November 30th of this year. However, a launch would surely take weeks if not months from that date. Details would need to be ironed out and certain key issues would all need to be determined. Right now, it appears Maryland is looking at legal sports betting sometime in early 2021 if all goes according to plan. Until then, neighboring states will continue to benefit from Maryland’s lack of urgency.