Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) pre-filed SB 58 before the next legislative session in Maryland. This bill would allow horse tracks and casinos the ability to offer legalized sports betting within state borders.
To have the bill go through, Maryland voters still need to approve the matter in what will hopefully be in November – assuming the bill is passed. Tax revenue from sports betting would go directly to the use of public education.
“Be it further enacted, that it is the intent of the General Assembly that, if the voters of the State adopt a referendum that authorizes sports wagering in the State, the State revenues generated by sports wagering be used for dedicated purposes including the funding of public education,” according to SB 58.
West believes there’s enough interest around the state for the bill to get passed through Maryland’s legislature this year, but it won’t be a rapid process.
“We should walk before we run,” said West.
Maybe Sooner Than Later
There is, however, an interesting loophole that could get sports betting up and running in Maryland sooner. Maryland’s Constitution allows changes to commercial gambling laws as long as the voters are in favor of them.
That was tried because lawmakers felt like they could sidestep the requirement in taking sports betting under the oversight of the Maryland Lottery since new games don’t need a referendum.
It has been a little more than a year and a half since the US Supreme Court gave the OK for states to make their own decisions on whether or not to legalize sports betting. Nineteen states, including the neighboring District of Columbia, either have sports betting operational or plan to do so in the near future.
In addition, nearby states like Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are bringing in business from those Maryland residents looking for their fix.
Maryland has six casinos within its state borders. Half of those (MGM National Harbor, Maryland Live! and Horseshoe) make up a majority of the state’s gaming revenue, and the other half are small resort venues (Rocky Gap Resort, Hollywood Perryville and Ocean Downs) that have slot and table games.
Another hope for expediting the process of sports betting in Maryland would be the success of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. QB Lamar Jackson is about to win the league’s MVP award, and the Ravens are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl.
With that combination of production and talent, they could be a dynamic marketing factor that grabs the attention of Maryland decision-makers.
Lawmakers and voters in Maryland should also be optimistic about the success of sports betting since FanDuel will be a major player in the state, should all the bills get passed and voted on. The Cordish Companies and Maryland Live! have already declared FanDuel will be providing all of the necessary sports betting services if required.
As the District of Columbia goes through its own legal see-saw, now would be the time for Maryland to strike. Who knows? DC could still very well be in this mess for a while, and Maryland could take in bets from those residents, and even in Virginia.