Maryland Lawmakers Back at Sports Betting Drawing Board as Session Nears End

Posted on: April 7, 2021, 08:35h. 

Last updated on: April 7, 2021, 10:09h.

The Maryland Senate is greatly overhauling the lower chamber’s approved sports betting bill. That’s following backlash from entities that plan to participate in the expanded gaming.

Maryland sports betting Baltimore
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins slides into home on Opening Day against the Red Sox in Boston. Later this year, Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Maryland could have an in-stadium sportsbook. (Image: Getty)

House Bill 940 passed Maryland’s House of Delegates last month. But the bill was quickly lambasted by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which serves as the landlord for the NFL Baltimore Ravens and MLB Baltimore Orioles. 

HB940 allows both team’s professional sports venues to incorporate in-person retail sportsbooks. But the legislation as passed by the House dictates that the sports betting facilities only operate when the Ravens or Orioles are playing at home. Maryland’s venues include M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With less than a week to go before the Maryland General Assembly is set to adjourn on its 2021 session, Senate lawmakers are crafting new sports betting legislation that eases numerous restrictions in the House bill.

No Stadium Betting Restrictions

The latest Senate plan would allow for limitless in-person and mobile sports betting licenses. The House version called for 12 in-person sports betting licenses at casinos and other businesses, 15 online permits, and stadium and horse racetrack sportsbooks.

The Senate plan lets the Orioles and Ravens’ stadiums, as well as FedExCup Field, home to the NFL Washington Football Team in Landover, Md., operate sportsbooks seven days a week. Pimlico and Laurel Park horse racecourses could do the same.

We are doing our best not to pick winners and losers, but to let the market work itself out,” Sen. Craig Zucker, (D-Montgomery County) told The Baltimore Sun. Zucker is one of the developers of the new sports betting scheme.

The House bill limits the Ravens, Orioles, and Washington Football Team’s stadiums to only accepting in-person bets. That garnered a stern response from the MSA, which argued that the pro teams should be afforded mobile sportsbook rights, too. 

“The goal should be to increase sports fan enthusiasm, which is best achieved by having our sports teams involved in all modes of sports wagering,” MSA Chairman Thomas Kelso testified last month before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Kelso added this week that allowing the stadiums to operate retail sportsbook lounges regardless of whether a game is being played will help “promote mixed-use development” surrounding the complexes. 

Late to Game

Maryland voters signed off on amending the state constitution to allow sports betting during last November’s presidential election. 

Sports betting is already up and running in each of Maryland’s four bordering states — Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Delaware. With only five days to go before the Maryland General Assembly is slated to end its session for the year, time is critical in moving sports betting law to Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) desk.

Hogan is supportive of the gaming expansion measure. “This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education,” Hogan explained. 

Maryland casinos, which direct their gaming tax revenue to the state’s Education Trust Fund, reported their best month ever in March.