Maryland Approves Sports Betting Bill; Voters To Have Final Say
The Maryland General Assembly approved a sports betting bill Wednesday before adjourning the session early. Voters will have final say on legalizing sports betting in November.
The Senate voted Wednesday morning 45-0 to approve the bill after the House added a key amendment Tuesday night. If voters approve the measure, the legislature will have to work out how sports betting will be implemented, tax rates, and determining who gets licenses.
The voter referendum is required by Maryland law. The referendum question before voters would be phrased to say that authorizing sports betting would raise revenue for education, according to the amended House version. The question reads:
“Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”
If voters approve legalizing sports betting after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signs it, Maryland should take its first legal sports bet in 2021.
One of the amendments added by the House Tuesday night would ensure that minorities and women are involved in the licensing process, according to The Baltimore Sun. A “disparity study” would be required and lawmakers would use the results to identify who receives licenses for mobile and in-person sports betting. The House approved the amended bill 129-3 late Tuesday. The original bill in the Senate passed unanimously, 47-0, on March 10.
The Senate bill allowed sports bets to be placed online and at six casinos and three horse racing tracks in the state. It also included betting at a new or renovated stadium of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, which is years away. Other key items in the Senate bill included a 20% tax rate (which is higher than some states) and betting on college sports, including games involving Maryland schools.
Most of the tax revenue would go to the Education Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education, The Sun reported.
Although Maryland has had casino gambling for years, it has fallen behind neighboring Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware when it comes to sports betting. With Virginia now legalizing sports betting and casinos during its legislative session and Washington, D.C., about to roll out sports betting, there is even more pressure on Maryland to pass legislation this year.
And surviving a voter referendum is not a sure bet in Maryland. A February poll of Maryland residents by Goucher College in Baltimore showed that 47% supported expanding gambling to allow sports betting online in Maryland and 43% opposed it. In addition, 45% supported expanding gambling to allow sports betting at race tracks, casinos or stadiums in Maryland, while 49% were opposed.
The Maryland General Assembly was initially scheduled to end April 6. But it scrambled to pass the state budget and key legislation this week so it can adjourn Wednesday because of coronavirus concerns.
Be first to get our exclusive sports offers!
Join today to stay up to date on your states gambling news and offers.