Maryland Sports Betting Bill Before Senate Committee Thursday

Maryland Sports Betting Bill Before Senate Committee Thursday
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Maryland’s efforts to launch sports wagering takes another important step Thursday when the state Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee holds a hearing on a House of Delegates bill that outlines parameters for retail and online sports wagering.

The bill, known as HB940, creates three categories of sports wagering licenses — two for retail operators and one for online. It also establishes various application fees and a tax rate of 15%/17.5% depending on certain mobile revenues. Most notably, it the first such legislation in the country that places emphasis on minority and women’s participation in the equity ownership of sports wagering businesses.

RELATED: More about Maryland sports betting and gaming

HB940 cleared the House on March 11.

Last year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down global activity, the Maryland Senate had come up with its own framework for sports wagering and had sent it to the House. That legislation ran into a roadblock over the issue of minority equity ownership and, as a result, in November Maryland voters cast ballots on a barebones resolution on sports wagering, either up or down. Voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin, leaving all the details to the General Assembly to sort out.

The House of Delegates took the sports wagering lead in 2021 when House Speaker Adrienne Jones introduced HB 940 in February while the Senate was still holding work sessions to accept input from stakeholders and the public.

Stakeholders to Testify Thursday

The Senate hearing Thursday will be interesting in that stakeholders have an opportunity to speak regarding a complete HB940 and influence the bill’s content.

Already, advocates on behalf of problem gambling and consumer protections have publicly voiced their objections saying the bill doesn’t go far enough in those areas and is that a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights, which is part of Virginia and Washington D.C. sports wagering legislation, be included in a Maryland bill.

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

Among operators, an interesting issue looms in that online licenses are not tethered to retail licenses.

The number of Class A licenses, which have been identified as going to the state’s casinos, horse racing operators and pro sports teams, was increased from 10 to 12 in HB 940. The number of Class B licenses, which would be businesses that are not eligible as Class A license applicants, was increased from five to 10. And online sports wagering licenses were also increased, from 10 to 15.

Common sense would dictate that the casino industry, a major contributor to state coffers through a hefty tax on slot revenues, would be in line for online licenses. But so far, that’s not specifically in the law.

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