While much of the US is pushing forward towards the deregulation of legal sports betting, sports fans in Maryland will have to wait a little longer. This is because Maryland won’t find out until November 2020 whether a bill will be passed that will legalize sports betting in the state.

If Senate Bill 58 finds its way to the ballot, it could mean that sports betting will become legal in Maryland from November 30 onwards. However, there are still a number of obstacles in the way of this decision, and from there, there remain a series of steps that need to be taken to implement the legal framework.

February 2018 saw the introduction of the Maryland House Bill No. 989. This gave governing bodies the power to create a task force that studied how to implement sports betting within the state. Such legislation paved the way for seeing how licenses would be issued to operators, along with determining the legal age for people to be allowed to bet on sporting events. It is understood that gamblers would need to be at least 21 before they would be legally allowed to bet on sports in Maryland.

While this legislation was hugely encouraging, the proposition in Maryland did not move forward in 2018. This was in direct opposition to what was experienced in many neighboring states. East Coast neighbors like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware have all launched legal sports betting legislation.

Plus Washington DC also joined in the deregulation efforts. Such moves have meant that sports fans can enjoy legally betting on anything from NFL football to NBA basketball at licensed operators. Plus horse racing fans will be able to bet on odds featured at the bookmakers on this website in a safe and completely legal manner.

So what’s behind Maryland’s decision to stall the deregulation of sports betting? The state’s constitution requires that citizens must provide their voter consent to any amendments that could bring about changes in gambling laws. There were initially some hopes that this vote could be side-stepped by giving the Maryland Lottery regulatory powers for betting on sports, but such efforts quickly fell by the wayside.

As such, sports fans will have to wait until November 2020 to see if they get to vote on Senate Bill 58 that would pave the way for legal sports betting. This will first need to be approved by the state legislature before it finds its way to the ballot box. If a majority voted for the bill, it would be approved and this would mean that sports betting would become legal in Maryland from November 30 onwards.

Senate Bill 58 gives the state lottery and gaming control commission the powers to issue licenses to operators for sports betting. A key part of this bill is that revenues gained by sports betting would have to be used for ‘dedicated purposes’ such as public education programs.

It’s up for debate as to what the passing of the bill would mean for Maryland’s six commercial casinos. Most of these casinos are understood to be keen to gain a license that would enable them to facilitate sports betting. But there are still big questions as to whether sports betting in Maryland would only be legal at such physical locations, or whether betting on sports could also be permitted in the online domain.

There are plenty of diverse opinions about whether voters in Maryland would pass the bill if it came to the vote. There is a fair amount of moral opposition to the legalization of online gambling. But given the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in Maryland, there is understandable urgency among governing bodies to generate extra revenues to cater to the ill-effects of this public health crisis.

Nearby states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have both benefitted as a result of the revenues brought in through the licensing of online gambling. All of which should give the governing bodies in Maryland plenty of initiative to approve the legislature necessary to put Senate Bill 58 to a public vote this November.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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