Maryland Sports Betting Bill Prefiled in the Annapolis Capital

  • Senate Bill 58 will be considered during the 2020 legislative session
  • It calls for commercial casinos and racetracks in the state to be able to offer sports betting
  • If approved by the state's legislature, a public vote will be held in November 2020
3d rendering of a Maryland state flag waving
Senate Bill 58 has been prefiled in the Annapolis capital, which could result in Maryland voters having the final say on sports betting in the state. [Image:]

Voters must give their approval

Senate Bill 58 has been prefiled by Baltimore County State Senator Chris West ahead of the state legislature’s next session in 2020. 

If this bill is approved by the state’s legislature, it will then make its way onto the election ballot in November. It has been confirmed that voters would then have the final say on whether sports betting should be allowed at the state’s casinos and parimutuel racetracks.

voters would then have the final say on whether sports betting should be allowed

Taxes generated by these sportsbooks would go toward public education funds across the state, as well as a number of other undefined purposes.

If the bill advances to the referendum ballot in November, it would simply need majority support from those voting in order to pass. As stated in Senate Bill 58, if voters give their approval, sports betting in Maryland would then be legal “on the 30th day following the official canvass of votes for the referendum.”

Maryland’s gambling industry

Six commercial casinos are currently open for business in Maryland. The three largest casinos contribute most of the gaming revenue that goes to the state.

The largest casinos in Maryland are the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, the Maryland Live! Casino, and the MGM National Harbor Casino. The three smaller casinos operating in the state are the Ocean Downs Casino, Hollywood Perryville Casino, and the Rocky Gap Resort Casino.

Some of these gaming venues have already been preparing for legal sports betting by getting on board with partners in the space. Maryland Live! is the biggest commercial casino in terms of its table game and slot revenues. 

Its parent company, Cordish Companies, has a deal in place with FanDuel to provide sports betting services. This casino company is also developing a $700m integrated casino resort in the stadium district of Philadelphia.

Legal sports betting expansion

Since the ending of the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, 20 states have legalized sports betting. This is in addition to the nearby district of Washington DC.

However, there have been numerous issues and legal complaints that have delayed the launching of sports betting in nearby DC. Neighbor states to Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania all have legal sportsbooks up and running already.

More hurdles to clear

One of the main factors in the delay of legalizing sports betting in Maryland was the debate as to whether or not a public vote on the issue would be needed. As per the Maryland Constitution, there is a mandate that requires voter consent to accompany any changes to commercial gambling laws in the state. 

Despite this mandate, there were a few lawmakers who believed that a vote on the issue could be avoided. They thought that by putting the Maryland Lottery in charge of the sports betting sector, that a vote would not be needed. This is because new games that are under the oversight of this body do not require a referendum to be introduced.

there is a mandate that requires voter consent to accompany any changes to commercial gambling laws in the state

With Senate Bill 58 requiring a public vote, this will slow down the introduction of legal sports betting in the state, but it will also mean that there will be more of a chance of it happening. 

Key attributes of legal sports betting will have to be discussed if voters give approval. Key issues such as whether mobile sports betting will be legal, the tax rate on sports betting revenues and the allowing of betting on in-state teams will all be up for debate. 

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