Maryland Sports Betting Has Majority Support, Poll Finds

Maryland Sports Betting Has Majority Support, Poll Finds

Maryland may not have legal sports betting for several years. A new poll shows residents want it now.

A majority of Maryland’s registered voters want legal sports betting for their state, the Washington Post reports. A poll found 53 percent of voters supported legalized gambling, while 37 percent opposed and 10 percent had no opinion.

The poll further found equal levels of passion for both supporters and opponents. About 24 percent strongly approved while 26 percent strong disapproved.

Overall, the poll reaffirmed Marylanders’ support for legalized sports betting and reflected the overall shifting opinions in the nation as a whole. Invigorated by the Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal ban earlier this year, Americans have increasingly supported sports betting legalization.

Maryland, located near the epicenter of sports betting expansion, could play an important role in the industry’s rapid growth – if lawmakers can also get on board.

Maryland Legislation Stalls

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Old Line State voters support a new gambling avenue.

The state’s horse racing industry attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and hosts the annual Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown and one of the most prestigious events in American horse racing.

Maryland also has a half-dozen casinos, including the MGM National Harbor. Opened in 2016 and located a few miles from both Virginia and Washington D.C., the property garners more than $50 million in revenue monthly.

Overall, these entities garner more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Sports betting would be a way to further bolster revenue potentials, as well as a way to attract a new group of bettors to tangential industries like hotels and restaurants.

Seeing that come to fruition has not been as easy.

The Supreme Court announced the ban’s repeal in May, but Maryland legislators joined several other states in considering sports betting legalization in preparation of the court’s decision. Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey were among a group of states that discussed laws in order to take bets if the federal ban was repealed.

Maryland’s House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a bill to do so, but it was stalled in the state Senate. The 2018 session finished without approval, leaving Maryland without legal bet taking capabilities while neighboring Delaware, and later West Virginia, passed laws and took their inaugural wagers.

Had Maryland passed a bill, it would have still required an approval measure before voters to amend the state constitution on the 2018 ballot. That deadline has come and gone, meaning that even if lawmakers can pass a bill in 2019, it would still take approval on the November 2020 ballot.

If passed, it would still be unlikely Maryland takes a bet until 2021.

Though obstacles remain, polls like the one from the Post show the public likely back a sports betting measure. Gov. Larry Hogan, who earlier this month won re-election for a second four-year term, oversaw the launch of MGM National Harbor and would likely support a bill.

Lawmakers in Annapolis will also likely change their tune. They took up a bill even before the federal ban was overturned, mitigating a sense of urgency to pass legislation that may have never come to fruition.

Now legal sports betting is a bold reality across the country. It’s at its most prevalent in many of Maryland’s neighboring jurisdictions.

Regional Competition Could Spark Action

Even if elected officials are wary of sports betting, the rapid moves by their neighbors may force their hands.

The Mid-Atlantic is the center of U.S. sports betting outside Nevada. Delaware and New Jersey, which led the legal challenge that ultimately overturned the sports betting ban, were the second and third states, respectively, to take a legal wager.

West Virginia was also among the early adaptors, and Pennsylvania is set to take its first bet before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Washington D.C. could take bets early next year.

Even Virginia, which has long opposed most forms of gambling and provides a large portion of gambling tourism visits in Maryland, has taken up several gaming expansion measures.

By 2021, every one of Maryland’s neighbors could have taken its first bet. Up to two dozen states total could offer wagers, including most of the Mid-Atlantic and northeast.

Maryland’s multi-billion dollar gambling industry has thrived in large part due to innovation and proximity for several million people in the densely populated eastern seaboard. Even if lawmakers act in time to place a 2020 ballot measure before voters, it may just be a means to keep up with regional competition.

With new gambling forms increasingly available across state lines, it’s not surprising polls show Maryland residents support allowing those same opportunities in their own jurisdiction.

As they watch revenue slide to other states, Maryland lawmakers may have even higher levels of support.

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