Maryland Sports Betting Bill Progresses, Voters Could Decide Fate in November

Posted on: March 5, 2020, 09:20h. 

Last updated on: March 5, 2020, 10:04h.

Maryland sports betting Senate Bill 4 is moving to the state’s upper chamber floor after receiving unanimous approval in committee.

Maryland sports betting referendum
Sports betting could be coming to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor next year. (Image: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images)

Introduced by Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), the legislation seeks to allow the state’s three horse racetracks, six casinos, and potentially the NFL Redskins football stadium to operate sportsbooks. Mobile sports betting would also be authorized.

Both professional and collegiate sports betting would be permitted, including games involving state universities. SB 4 heads to the Senate floor for consideration after nine Democrats and four Republicans in the Budget and Taxation Committee lent their support to the statute.

This is something that we hear Marylanders want,” Zucker said. “As Maryland has been debating this, more than 16 states have already started to do sports betting.”

The US Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that the long ban on full-scale sports betting everywhere but Nevada violated the Constitution. Several of Maryland’s neighbors already have sportsbooks up and running, including Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Voter Power

It’s been 22 months since the Supreme Court’s decision, and only now are Maryland lawmakers making true headway in bringing sports betting to the Old Line State. The delay has largely been because of legality questions, specifically whether the General Assembly possessed the power to expand gambling without voter consent.

Ultimately, the consensus among Annapolis politicians was that legalizing sports betting indeed required approval from voters.

A poll released last month from Goucher College in Baltimore found that only 45 percent of voters favored allowing in-person sports betting at racetracks, casinos, and stadiums. A bit surprising: 47 percent backed online sports gambling.  

Numerous lobbyists representing the gaming industry and horsemen were in the committee room this week when the unanimous vote was held. A concerted campaign effort to gain more support for the sports betting bill will likely soon commence, should it pass the Senate and House and be signed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). The governor has expressed support for sports betting.

Money for Education

Backers of the Maryland sports betting bill say it will benefit the state education system.

Each sports betting license for the three tracks and large casinos will cost $2.5 million. For casinos with fewer than 1,000 slot machines, the fee is reduced to $1.5 million.

Maryland’s three smaller resort-style casinos – Rocky Gap, Hollywood Casino Perryville, and Ocean Downs – would qualify for the trimmed one-time permit cost. MGM National Harbor, Live!, and Horseshoe Baltimore would be required to pay the full amount.

There are Marylanders that are doing this in the dark market, so we want to bring them out to do it legally,” Zucker explained. “It gives us another opportunity to invest in Maryland’s future with capturing some of those revenues.”

Gross gaming revenue from sports betting would be subject to a 20 percent tax, with 19 percent allocated to the state for education and the remaining one percent headed into the state’s “Minority Business Enterprise Program.”

Legislative analysis concluded that Maryland will receive approximately $21 million annually from sports gambling.

While the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles didn’t request to be included in the sports betting bill, Redskins owner Dan Snyder did. SB 4 would allow his NFL stadium to incorporate a sportsbook, but only if the billionaire agrees to a host of criteria, most importantly a major renovation, or complete rebuild, of the Landover venue.