Maryland Sports Betting Effort Falls Short; Fantasy Sports Bill Heads To Governor

Maryland sports betting 2019

An effort to legalize sports betting in Maryland via a referendum fell short, as the legislature wrapped up Monday without sending a bill to the governor.

The legislature also passed a bill dealing with daily fantasy sports that will head to the governor. Paid-entry fantasy contests were already legalized under a 2012 law.

Wither sports betting

A sports betting bill overwhelmingly passed the state House last month, to the tune of a vote of 124-14.

But beyond a hearing on H 1014, there was no action on the bill in the Senate. That effectively ends any hope of the state legalizing sports wagering in the short term.

The legislature doesn’t reconvene until January of next year.

Maryland may find itself way behind

By the time the statehouse is in action again, the state may find a very different landscape for legal wagering.

  • A decision is expected in the New Jersey sports betting case in front of the US Supreme Court this spring. If the high court strikes down the federal ban on single-game wagering outside of Nevada, that would allow other states to legalize it.
  • In the interim, most of Maryland’s neighbors have legalized wagering already, pending that decision. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and of course NJ already have laws on the books. Delaware already has parlay wagering and would likely follow suit.
  • Even if the state were to pass a bill in 2019, it would still require the approval of voters. That puts any potential rollout into 2020.

Of course, other states have cooled on passing sports betting this year, including Kansas most recently.

Fantasy sports law?

In other news, the state also sent a minor fantasy sports bill to the governor’s desk.

The bill — S 900 — isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It simply moves regulation of the fantasy sports industry from the state comptroller’s office to the state lottery and gaming commission. The comptroller had already instituted regulations last year, based on the authority vested in the office in 2012.

It also bans the operation of fantasy sports kiosks in Maryland. If it becomes law, it only appears to affect a company called Eaglestrike, which operates such kiosks in several states, Maryland included.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.