Maryland Wants to Make a Bet

Choosing the leader of the free world wasn’t the only thing Maryland voters were deciding in early November. They also decided whether they want to welcome sports betting in the Old-Line State and did so by a whopping two to one margin.

That’s right, Maryland wants to make a bet and it’s not completely surprising when considering that the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, is held annually at Pimlico Race Course. And now that the voters have made their voices heard, it will be up to Maryland’s legislature to put the wheels in motion to ultimately get sports betting up and running.

Online betting is legal but not operating yet, as earlier this year the state senate voted 47-0 to approve sports betting and the way the law is currently constructed, a licensee would be obligated to pay a one-time application fee as high as $2.5 million and then renew the application annually.

As of this writing, the betting windows would be at brick-and-mortar locations like casinos, stadiums, and horse tracks. Mobile apps, like those featured in other legal U.S. jurisdictions, with companies like Draft Kings and Fan Duel holding the licenses, have not been given the green light just yet. Those issues will be handled in the state legislature next year.

Online gaming attorney, Jeff Ifrah, has been following the Maryland sports betting scene and told Washington DC’s National Public Radio affiliate, WAMU/DCist, “bettors may not be able to place their wagers in Maryland until Super Bowl 2022. Assuming [legislators] could get all their ducks in a row,” he says, “I would think that it’s not totally unrealistic for them to be done by the end of next year and ready to stand up some initial licensed operators.”

State Senator, Craig Zucker, a Democrat from Montgomery County, is spearheading the effort to work out the details in the General Assembly and roll sports betting out to the citizens, and ostensibly those within its borders, sooner than later.

“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,” Zucker said. “We want to make sure our minority businesses are included as well. Again, this is going to be completely transparent, open, and inclusive.”

Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, stated, “If the bill is very streamlined, straightforward, sports betting for the casinos, and let’s say horse tracks as well, they can get up and running very quickly. In fact, most of those entities have contractual relationships with a number of major sports betting providers.”

GOP Governor Hogan Supports Bill

Maryland legislators are predicting that anywhere between $20 to $40 million will be realized through the operator’s fees and taxes associated with sports betting in the state which is intended to be earmarked for the state’ education lockbox. Currently, the lockbox is the beneficiary of the state’s casino revenues and this would be just another revenue stream toward that end.

Question 2, which would allow legal sports betting for the purpose of funding education was worded thusly on Maryland’s ballot this past November, “Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

The question was heartily endorsed by the governor and before the vote took place, stated, “This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education, ” Hogan said in a press release. “We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come.”

Hogan further elaborated, “Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses.”

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Football Team, has made his intentions crystal clear that he would like to construct a new facility with a sportsbook inside the new stadium and has intimated he might move the team to northern Virginia if things don’t go his way.

Needless to say, he has gotten the attention of local politicians, one of them being attorney and state legislator, Erek L. Barron, a Democrat who chairs the Prince George’s delegation, “It was a businessman making a commitment to Maryland – who was willing to put his own money into it. In Prince George’s, we need to be doing everything we can do to promote jobs and economic development. I think any businessman singing that music, we should be listening to him.”


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