Questions Loom After Maryland Voters Pass Sports Betting

Record numbers of voters turned out for the Nov. 3 Presidential Election. That was the case in Maryland too, where besides electing the next President, voters were asked to decide about legalizing sports betting statewide.

Maryland’s voters approved the ballot measure by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, becoming the 17th state to legalize sports betting.

Issues on the Table

Now, the General Assembly, along with Governor Larry Hogan, will be tasked with fine-tuning the sports betting laws. The next steps will involve assigning gambling operations licenses, choosing how bettors place their bets (in-person only, mobile-only, or both), and how much of a hold the state will take.

Another point of consideration is whether Maryland should allow betting involving in-state collegiate programs. Betting on in-state athletics has been a controversial subject in some states. Those in favor cite the potential for increased revenue by fans of the local programs, while opponents argue it is unethical and could lead to corruption among college athletics.

The General Assembly planned to discuss all of those issues before putting the sports betting measures on the ballot but were unable to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was fear the lack of clarity would lead the ballot measure to fail, but voters gave final say to the General Assembly to lay out a launch plan, passing G.A. oversight measures by a 3-to-1 margin.

Experts say once these issues are addressed, sports betting in Maryland could launch by the end of 2021, and perhaps by mid-summer if the state goes mobile-only.

Where Will Sports Betting Revenue Go?

It remains unclear where specifically sports betting revenue will go, which is another topic of debate for the General Assembly. The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt created budget shortfalls, and it’s likely, at least in the short-term, the sports betting revenue would be used to make up for lost revenue.

Once the pandemic related deficits are covered, sports betting revenue will likely go towards education programs.

The leading force behind sports betting in the state is Senator Craig Zucker, a Democrat from Montgomery County. Zucker was instrumental in getting the initiative on the 2020 ballot, and will now act as chairman of a special committee of the General Assembly focused on addressing the unresolved issues surrounding Maryland sports betting.

“We are going to have everyone at the virtual table to make sure everybody‚Äôs 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.”

The Line for a License

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Football Team, has already expressed his interest in obtaining a sports betting license. The Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore also said they would be submitting a sports betting license application.

Maryland state law says those seeking a sports betting license would be subject to a one-time application fee of up to $2.5 million. Licensees would then need to renew their license annually, at an additional charge.

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