Maryland Remains Behind Neighbors For Sports Betting

Maryland Remains Behind Neighbors For Sports Betting

Maryland seemed like it would be among the first states with legalized sports betting. Instead, the Old Line State watched four neighboring jurisdictions pass their own sports betting laws – and several are already reaping millions of dollars in revenue.

Gambling is nothing new to Maryland, which now averages around $150 million in revenue every month from its casinos. The strategically placed MGM National Harbor, which opened in 2016 just across the border from Washington D.C. and Virginia, neither of which have casinos, further bolstered the state’s gambling bottom line and showed state lawmakers and regulators that its gaming facilities were positioned to remain competitive in the most densely populated region in the country.

Sports betting seemed like a logical next step, especially with neighboring states jockeying to take advantage of the new opportunity. New Jersey led the legal challenge to the federal prohibition on sports betting, ultimately winning its case when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ban. Pennsylvania passed a sports betting law even before the case was settled, likewise positioning itself as an early sports gambling destination.

Delaware and West Virginia subsequently finalized their sports gambling laws and regulations in the weeks after the court decision. Delaware is already taking bets and West Virginia looks to do so before Sept. 1.

That left Maryland far behind the race for legal sports betting. It could be a long time until it catches up.

The state House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a sports betting bill in the 2018 legislative session. That bill didn’t gain similar traction in the state senate and was sidelined without any further action before the session expired. Ideas of a special legislative session to discuss the bill have not materialized, leaving the bill stalled until 2019 at the earliest if nothing changes.

Even if the senate takes up the bill, it would still need to pass a referendum before the voters for passage. It seems all but impossible to land on the 2018 ballot, meaning that even if passed by both houses and signed into law by the governor, sports betting may still not be able to come before final approval from voters until 2020.

Neighbors Leave Maryland Behind

Maryland’s legislative struggles have been to its neighbors’ advantage.

Delaware recorded more than $7 million in total sports betting revenue in the first few weeks of legal wagering. New Jersey took in more than $16 million in the same time frame. West Virginia, with five casinos spread across the state, is projected to take in several million dollars within its first few weeks as well.

A consolation may be the struggles facing a state that already passed its sports betting laws. Pennsylvania, which covers the entirety of Maryland’s northern border, legalized sports betting almost a year ago. It still hasn’t taken a bet. High fees have dissuaded any gambling partners and Keystone State lawmakers have seemed disinclined to modify the existing framework.

Without coemption from Pennsylvania, Maryland still has competitors for gambling tourism dollars to its east and west. It still has more to offer than Virginia, which has no casinos, and can still attract visitors from the Old Dominion. But even Virginia, long opposed to gambling expansion, has slowly warmed up to gambling entities like casinos and horsetracks long since commonplace across the country.

Meanwhile competition will only pick up in the northeast and nationwide as more states eye sports gambling opportunities of their own. Maryland risks falling even further behind the sports betting race.

Interested in learning more about the current US sports betting landscape? Check out our latest Gamblecast explaining everything you need to know about US sports betting:

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