The voters have spoken. The people of Maryland went to the polls on Nov. 3 and voted two-thirds in favor of legalizing sports betting within the state.
Now what happens?
Though the move was overwhelmingly approved by both voters and government officials, there’s still plenty of work to be done before the people of Maryland will be able to legally wager on sporting events.
“The devil’s in the details, and there will be many details to come,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director Gordon Medenica explained to BizJournals.com.
How It Got To This Stage
Question Two on the Maryland election ballot, known as the Sports Betting Expansion Measure, saw the yes voters accounting for 68.8 percent of all ballots cast (1,867,310). Meanwhile, no drew just 32.2 percent of support from the ballots that were cast (920,524).
Prior to the public vote, Senate Bill 58, which provided the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission permission to issue certain sports wagering licenses, was approved by a unanimous 47-0 vote in the Maryland State Legislature.
Maryland Gov. Larry Horgan is a Republican. The State Legislature is controlled by Democrats. And yet, in a rarity in these days of toxic political tribalization, the two parties are in lockstep in their support of moving forward with the legalization of sports betting.
The annual tax revenue from sports betting in the state is expected to be between $20-$40 million. Under the plan, the annual tax revenue from that money would be earmarked for public K-12 education.
Sports betting giants FanDuel and DraftKings invested millions of dollars into lobbying efforts in support of Question 2 being answered in the affirmative.
Maryland A Sports Betting-Free Oasis
When it comes to legalized sports betting, Maryland is surrounded. All of the states that border Maryland have already taken the step to make sports betting legal. These include Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. All are among the 22 U.S. states that have already opted to make sports betting a legal pursuit. The District of Columbia also went ahead and legalized wagering on sports.
The fact of the matter is that the people of Maryland can already access legal sports betting by making the short trip across state lines into any of these locations. Maryland is allowing the goose that laid the golden egg to leave the state.
Truth be told, Maryland’s constitution is playing a major role in the state dragging its feet on sports betting. In order for any changes to be made to the state’s commercial gambling laws, it required that a state-wide vote be held.
It’s not like betting is forbidden in the state. Already, there is legal wagering on horse racing within Maryland. Several casinos are also open for gambling.
What Are The Next Steps?
As Mendenica noted, there are many details that must be hammered out prior to Maryland being able to go live and operational with any form of legal sports betting. The state must determine how licenses will be awarded. It also needs to design a framework for which entities will be eligible to apply for a sports betting license, and what those licenses will entail.
Will there be retail betting? Is there going to be online and mobile access to wagering? Will online-only sports betting groups be required to also offer a brick and mortar sportsbook site within the state? Will the licenses be tied to racetracks and casinos, as they are in the majority of other states that have already gone ahead and legalized sports betting?
How will sports betting be taxed? Where will the revenues from sports betting be specifically directed? Will education be the only benefactor, or are there going to be other areas that benefit from sports betting revenue?
What sports will be available for wagering? In many states, certain types of wagering on in-state college sports teams are prohibited.
“We are going to have everyone at the virtual table to make sure everybody’s voice is heard and we can stay competitive with our neighbors,” Sen. Craig Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat, told WBALTV. “We want to make sure our minority businesses are included as well. Again, this is going to be completely transparent, open, and inclusive.”
Maryland took a significant step toward the legalization of sports betting via its Nov. 3 vote. However, there are still many hurdles to be cleared before anyone will be legally putting a wager on the Baltimore Ravens to win the Super Bowl.