Maryland, Louisiana & South Dakota Approve Sports Betting
Sports betting was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Maryland, Louisiana and South Dakota Tuesday, adding three new states — likely in 2021 — to the growing U.S. market.
It remains to be seen how quickly they can set regulations, approve operators and take their first bets, but the states have taken the first step with Tuesday’s vote.
Two other states, Ohio and Massachusetts, are also considering legislation to legalize sports betting and New York, which allows in-person sports betting at upstate casinos, could soon look to add online/mobile betting.
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Maryland voters easily approved sports wagering, an issue that appeared on the ballot under the heading of “Question 2.” Tax proceeds will primarily go to fund education in Maryland, as does slot machine money from the state’s six casinos.
The measure passed by a 2-1 margin.
The sports gambling referendum was a simple up-or-down vote and the ballot question carried no specifics about what sports wagering would look like or a tax rate. The Maryland state legislature will be tasked with hammering out details when it convenes for its normal session beginning in January.
Prior to the pandemic, both the Maryland senate and the House of Delegates held extensive hearings on the issue and at that time, it appeared that licenses would go to the state’s six casinos, the state’s horse racing business (Maryland Jockey Club), the fairgrounds in Timonium, perhaps some OTBs and even a Washington Football Team stadium.
Those hearings leaned toward having both retail and online sports wagering and a number of online betting operators and related interests testified. However, all that work on a sports wagering framework was shelved when some members of the House of Delegates raised concerns about the lack of diversity — minorities and women — among likely equity stakeholders. That question still remains to be resolved.
In order to get sports wagering in front of the voters, the legislature opted to simply put the bare bones yes-or-no question on the ballot.
Possibly, the work done earlier this year will provide a foundation for legislative deliberations in 2021 and speed the process of getting sports betting up and running in Maryland. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, signaled that he would sign whatever bill the legislature produces.
This was the third time that Maryland voters have approved a gambling-related referendum question in the 21st century. In 2008, voters approved slots gambling paving the way for the state’s first five casinos, and in 2012, voters also said “Yes” to table games and a sixth casino in Prince George’s County.
In Louisiana, 55 parishes out of 64 approved sports betting Tuesday. In Louisiana, such questions are decided locally.
The Louisiana sports wagering question was a simple yes-or-no vote. The state legislature convenes in April and it will work out the details of how sports betting will operate in that state, such as whether it will be retail only or also include online wagering where undoubtedly most bettors prefer to place their wagers.
Determining what businesses will be licensed to have sports betting will be a key part of the decision-making process. Louisiana has land- and water-based casinos as well as race tracks. And certainly, tax rates will be important in the legislature’s discussion.
While it’s speculative to predict how speedy that process will go, it’s relevant to note that Louisiana voters approved daily fantasy sports in 2018 and it is still not up-and-operating in Louisiana.
The vote in South Dakota was at 59% in favor of the Constitutional Amendment B allowing retail sports betting in Deadwood with 90% of the votes counted. The Associated Press called the amendment's victory Tuesday night.
With the approval of Amendment B, the 2021 legislature would be tasked with promulgating rules. Sports wagering in Deadwood could potentially debut on July 1, 2021.
The vote could possibly open the door for wagering at the tribal casinos in the state and for online/mobile betting should lawmakers include it in the legislation. Under federal law, gaming authorized by the legislature for Deadwood would also be allowed at tribal casinos after amending gaming compacts, according to the Deadwood Gaming Association.
The state constitution currently authorizes the legislature to allow roulette, keno, craps, limited card games and slot machines in Deadwood.
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