Maryland Senate Unanimously in Favor of Sports Betting Bill

  • Bill would legalize sports betting for state casinos and racetracks
  • Maryland Senate voted 47-0 in favor of passage
  • House will now debate and vote on the issue
  • Public referendum required in November before it can pass into law
Annapolis, Maryland
The Senate in Maryland unanimously passed a sports betting bill that would see the activity become legal in the state. [Image:]

Overwhelming support

The Maryland Senate has approved a piece of legislation that would see the state’s six casinos, its racetracks, and possibly the Washington Redskins stadium offer sports betting. 

The unanimous Senate vote was 47-0 in favor of passage. The bill, sponsored by Senator Craig Zucker, will now be debated and voted on by the House. The current legislative session in Maryland will come to a close on April 6.

unanimous Senate vote was 47-0 in favor of passage

If the vote supports the measure, a referendum will take place on the issue in November. The public vote is required because a constitutional amendment will be needed to allow legal sports betting in Maryland. 

Likelihood of approval

Two sports betting bills have failed to win adequate support in the Maryland House to date. However, the House did approve a bill in 2018 before the federal ban on the activity ended. The Senate was not prepared to proceed with the issue at the time. 

Governor Larry Hogan also appears to be in support of legalizing sports betting, having backed such a motion in the past. If a public referendum on the issue does not take place this year, it will have to wait until the election in 2022. This has created a sense of urgency among lawmakers to get the motion on the November 2020 ballot.

Potential outcome of legal sports betting

According to analysts in Maryland, the state could benefit by about $20m each year from legal sports betting. Most of the revenues are being earmarked for educational programs.

state could benefit by about $20m each year from legal sports betting

The Democrats are in control of the legislature. They have been looking at different ways to drum up new forms of revenue that would provide more funding for the state’s education system. A recent education proposal would cost billions of dollars if it goes ahead. 

The state’s racetracks currently struggle somewhat to stay afloat financially. The proposed measure would see Maryland State Fair, Laurel Park, and the Pimlico Race Course benefit from the legalized activity. 

The bill also calls for legalizing online sports betting as well as allowing self-service machines on licensed premises. With nearby Virginia being close to having legal sports wagering, as is Washington, DC, Maryland will not want to lose out on the action.

Possibility of a Washington Redskins sportsbook

As part of the current bill, a sportsbook could be installed at either the Redskins home stadium or a newer stadium it the close vicinity. Redskins owner Dan Snyder met with state lawmakers in January to discuss the possibility of a stadium sportsbook opening in Maryland. 

The NFL team currently has its home stadium in Landover. However, there have been discussions about building a new stadium in either Maryland, the District of Columbia, or Virginia. The current FedEx Field lease will expire in 2027. 

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