Maryland House Passes Sports Betting Bill in Landslide Vote

Maryland House Passes Sports Betting Bill in Landslide Vote

By Trey Killian | March 19th, 2018

Maryland’s House of Delegates took a step toward eventually allowing sports wagering at the state’s casinos and other gaming facilities as it became the second state legislature to pass a sports betting bill in 2018. Much like the West Virginia bill earlier this year, H 1014 breezed through the House with flying colors.

The bill actually almost swept the voting, garnering an overwhelming 124-14 vote. With that result in mind, it appears clear that the Old Line State is in line with a growing list of states in thinking legalized sports betting will soon be a real possibility when the Supreme Court finally rules on Christie v. NCAA.

Northeast High on Sports Wagering

Similar to an effort recently put forth by Louisiana, the bill specifically asks for a referendum to be placed on November’s state ballot that will ask citizens to approve or deny the policy which would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The following are most likely casinos and tracks to gain eligibility:

  • Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
  • Live! Casino and Hotel
  • MGM National Harbor
  • Ocean Downs Casino
  • Rocky Gap Casino Resort.

As mentioned, Maryland would be following suit geographically as both bordering states Pennsylvania and West Virginia have enacted similar efforts. Nearby New Jersey is the state that could be the key to opening the way for sports betting as its challenge of PASPA is currently being deliberated by the SCOTUS.

A ruling could come down from the highest court in the land as early as April. Regardless of when it's actually announced, the ruling could mean one of two things: either the complete overruling of PASPA or another state-specific pathway to legalization that can be emulated by states like Kansas and Massachusetts.

Integrity Fee Not Included

Professional sports entities in the US such as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association will likely not be happy with the bill despite its palpable backing as it, similar to West Virginia’s bill, contains no language acknowledging the leagues’ proposed one percent integrity fee they intend to push for as so many states continue to form legislation in favor of betting on sports.

The idea of the fee was put forth in the jointly drafted Model Sports Wagering Act and has reaped much criticism as just another attempt by the leagues to cash in on consumers. While some states, such as Illinois, have caved to the leagues’ demands, it’s encouraging for those states still considering legislation to have been able to gather serious support for their sports betting causes without bending a knee.

Schools Expected to Benefit from Bill

With Maryland geographically right in the middle of all these proceedings, proponents of the bill believe that it would be in the state’s best interest to “keep up with the Joneses” and not put its casinos and racetracks at a competitive disadvantage. Delegate Frank Turner, a Democrat from Howard County, sponsored the Bill. He told the Baltimore Sun in regards to where the funds should end up:

"We specifically want any money from sport betting to go to the Education Trust Fund."

This move would align with current trends as the money the state already gains from casinos is currently dispersed into the public school system. Last year the state directed $531 million of its $1.7 billion casino gambling revenue to the Education Trust Fund. The state’s senate has introduced a similar bill, but activity regarding it has recently stagnated since March 7 when it received a committee hearing.

While the House bill is more thorough on the matter, the Senate bill does not specify whether racetracks should be included or excluded. Turner told the Sun that he’s not aware of any attempt to cut the racetracks out of the deal in the Senate and admitted that the tracks’ inclusion would be important as they are in need of new and exciting draws to garner patrons moving forward.

Wagers May Be Allowed by Mid-2019

While the bill still has a long way to go, its high volume of support this early on is encouraging to those in Maryland who want the ability to bet on professional sporting events. If voters approve the policy as listed on the ballot (whether it follows the House bill model or the Senate’s bill) it still has to be passed by the General Assembly.

This all means the earliest citizens can expect to be allowed to place their bets is mid-2019. The state has never seriously considered sports betting before, but the interest definitely exists and has been supported in recent history by actions such as its passage of a law explicitly legalizing paid-entry daily fantasy sports back in 2012 when it was the first state to pass meaning legislature in favor of the budding game.

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