Maryland Senate Continues to Advance Sports Betting Bill

Maryland Senate Continues to Advance Sports Betting Bill
© USA Today

The Maryland Senate approved an amended sports wagering bill Thursday in what procedurally is known as a second reading in the state’s legislative process. A third reading is expected soon and that should also result in full Senate approval.

The Senate version of the Maryland sports betting bill, which originated in the House of Delegates and is known as HB 940, will then move back to the House for that chamber’s approval. If required, there will be a reconciliation of the two versions before it moves to Gov. Larry Hogan for his consideration.

The Maryland legislative session ends April 12.

RELATED: Q&A with Maryland State Sen. Craig Zucker on sports betting

The bill is extraordinary among the array of sports wagering approaches in the U.S. in that it has no limits on the number of small retail sports operations that would be allowed (B-1 and B-2 licenses), as well as no limit on the number of online licenses.

The Senate’s Budget & Taxation Committee’s on Wednesday night moved the amended House bill to the full Senate.

The bill is crafted to encourage minority- and women-owned businesses to enter the sports wagering arena. There is money proposed that will amount to 5% of the license applications fees from the A-1 and A-2 retail licensees to go toward helping pay application fees, training and operating costs of the Class B operators. The fund will be administered by the state’s Commerce Department. State Sen. Craig Zucker said that the fund will have $1 million from the outset from the Class A licenses.

Application Fees Set

Application fees (so far) for retail books are: A-1, $2 million; A-2, $1 million; B-2, $250,000, and B-1, $50,000. Renewal fees are lower. Online licenses are $500,000. The proposed tax rate is 15% for Class A retail and online operators, and 13% for Class B retail.

HB 940 also provides for geographic exclusion zones so that sports retailers are somewhat spread out and so that rural casinos in the western part of the state and on the Eastern Shore are protected. The largest exclusion zone radius is 15 miles in rural areas and as small as 1.5 miles in more densely populated areas.

The state’s three largest casinos, race tracks and three pro sports teams (Orioles, Ravens and Washington Football Team) comprise A-1 retail. The state’s three smaller casinos are in A-2 retail. However, Class B-1 and B-2 and online are wide open.

A special committee yet to be appointed will review license applications although that review will mostly be for online initially with mobile operators who can demonstrate minority and women equity participation getting preference.

Maryland voters approved sports wagering by a 2-to-1 margin in November. Zucker was optimistic that sports wagering will be operating by the coming football season.

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