Maryland House Passes Sports Betting Bill By A Wide Margin

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Maryland sports betting 2018

A sports betting bill has been approved by a full legislative chamber in Maryland, the second state to reach that milestone in 2018.

West Virginia enacted a law this past weekend that passed both the state’s House of Delegates and Senate.

Any legalization of sports wagering in Maryland would require a victory for New Jersey in its case against the federal ban that is pending in the US Supreme Court. Several states are lining up to legalize single-game wagering outside of Nevada in that scenario.

The latest on Maryland sports betting

Maryland would need approval of the bill from the Senate, the governor, and ultimately from voters in the state before sports betting would become legal.

The bill — H 1014 — easily passed the House on Thursday, by a margin of 124-14. That bodes well for its chances in the upper chamber, and perhaps its odds of approval by the electorate. The state requires a referendum to approve gaming expansions.

The bill advanced quickly after its initial introduction in early February. The House Ways and Means Committee reported it to the full House floor earlier this week with some amendments.

The bill would authorize wagering via the state’s horse racing tracks and casinos. What’s the opportunity for sports betting in the state? More from a fiscal note attached to the bill:

The consulting firm Global Market Advisors estimates under a low scenario and a high scenario that sports betting in Maryland could generate $13.7 million and $182.1 million in revenues, respectively, if sports betting was legalized.

The law, as written, contains no mention of the “integrity fee” that the NBA and Major League Baseball have been seeking from legislatures across the country. If and when the referendum passes, the state would have to write enabling legislation.

The backstory in Maryland

Maryland hasn’t seriously considered sports wagering before. But it was the first state to pass a law explicitly legalizing paid-entry fantasy sports back in 2012. (There is some question about whether that law, too, required a constitutional amendment.)

Some lawmakers in Maryland previously said there was no rush to pass a sports betting law. But almost all of the state’s neighbors have sports betting laws waiting in the wings, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Ceding the sports betting market to the casinos and tracks in those states would be a poor strategy.

What’s next in Maryland?

The bill heads to the Senate, which also has its own version of a sports betting bill.

The Baltimore Sun broke down where things stand:

It was unclear Thursday just where the Senate bill stands. While it received a hearing in the Budget & Taxation Committee March 7, there has been no action on it yet.

The Senate has several options. It could wait and see whether the Supreme Court will act before the end of the session. It could pass the bill sponsored by Sen. Nancy King, a Montgomery County Democrat. Or it could take up Turner’s version and amend it to its liking.

Here is the Senate bill. That bill does not have language that includes race tracks explicitly.