Maryland’s 1st Move in 2021: Hammer Out Sports Betting Bill
Maryland voters approved expanding the state’s gambling offerings to include sports wagering in a Nov. 3 referendum by a 2-to-1 margin. The real work of crafting law that will set the parameters for sports betting will be done by the state’s General Assembly when the legislature convenes starting Jan. 13.
By population, Maryland is a middle-of-the-pack state with a little more than 6 million people ranking it 19th. But it is recognized for having a fairly enthusiastic sports constituency with the NFL Ravens and MLB Orioles in Baltimore, along with University of Maryland sports and horse racing’s Preakness Stakes.
The state has in place a brick-and-mortar gambling infrastructure (six commercial land-based casinos), with the three largest being MGM National Harbor near Washington D.C., Live! Casino and Hotel in the suburbs south of Baltimore, and the Horseshoe Baltimore in the city proper near the Ravens stadium and Orioles ballpark.
The Maryland legislature is earnest about hammering out a sports wagering bill in part because contiguous jurisdictions Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington DC all have sports wagering already running, and Virginia is on the cusp of flipping the switch.
Once sports betting is at full steam in Maryland, and assuming population figures are an indicator, handle should approximate similarly-sized states such as Indiana and Colorado. In November, Indiana sports wagering handle was about $250 million and Colorado was about $230 million.
What to Expect in Maryland
Maryland is not starting from scratch. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in March and April, the state senate had hammered out a bipartisan, fully formed bill for sports wagering that faltered in the House of Delegates amid concerns regarding a lack of minority and female equity interest. Those issues will have to be addressed.
There will also have to be consensus on who qualifies for a sports wagering license. Some casino interests have argued that licenses go to casinos only because they’ve been cash cows for the state (education is the focus) and have even provided money for the state’s horse racing industry. But the state’s horse racing industry wants to participate in sports betting.
Maryland sports wagering will certainly include both retail and mobile. William Hill, betMGM, FanDuel and Barstool all have built-in Maryland casino connections. DraftKings was at legislative hearings regarding sports wagering earlier in 2020, so it certainly has an interest.
Mostly sunny. It’ll take some work, but Maryland should have sports wagering running by the 2021 NFL betting season. Maryland’s foray into online wagering includes only sports for now. However, with a maturing casino industry in place, it’s likely that gambling companies will eye online casino games and poker in the future.
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