Better Luck Next Year For Maryland Sports Betting After AG Opinion Slows Plans

Posted on March 15, 2019
Posted By on March 15, 2019

Already a long shot to pass in 2019, Maryland sports betting met its demise for this year at the state legislature.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. declared dead efforts to maneuver around a constitutional requirement to approve MD sports betting at the ballot box.

“Sports betting is going to have to wait until next year,” Miller said in the Washington Post earlier this week.

This is the second consecutive year that Maryland attempted to enact legal sports betting but failed. With the setback, the state likely cannot begin sports betting until 2021 at the earliest.

Maryland sports betting always an underdog

The legal landscape in Maryland put MD sports betting efforts in a challenging position from the outset.

The once-open legal question of whether Maryland sports betting needed to go to the ballot began in murky waters. It ended with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh telling legislators this week that sports betting indeed does need voter approval, according to the Post.

In 2007, Maryland voters approved a measure requiring any commercial gambling expansion to appear on the ballot. The state lottery does not fall under that requirement, though, and that was the intended vehicle for legislation proposed by Dels. Jason Buckel and Kevin Hornberger.

Legislators explored the possibility that a 1972 referendum could permit them to bypass the ballot, but Frosh’s opinion quashed that hope.

What was in the MD sports betting bill?

The latest Maryland sports betting legislation directed 20 percent of revenue to the state and 80 percent to operators.

State-approved VLT operators and horse racing outfits would have been offered a $300,000 license fee. That license would last for one year before requiring renewal for $50,000 per year.

The license fee distribution breakdown:

  • 80 percent to education trust fund
  • 10 percent to problem gambling fund
  • 10 percent to local impact grants

About 4,500 retailers offer lottery games in Maryland. By trying to go through the lottery, casinos like MGM National Harbor and off-track betting shops would have suffered.

DC sports betting gets a boost

Maryland’s slowdown presents an opportunity for Washington, D.C. Its council approved DC sports betting earlier this year and could begin operations by September.

With Maryland off the board for at least two years and Virginia only in study mode, the district claims the first-mover advantage it touted as the reason for circumventing its bid process and forcing through its lottery provider to operate sports betting.

“Everybody’s got a head start: Las Vegas, New Jersey . . . it’s very unfortunate,” Miller told the Post.

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Adam Candee

Adam Candee is the managing editor of Legal Sports Report. He covers sports business and news from Las Vegas, where he works as a sports radio host for ESPN and VSiN. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun, and KLAS-TV. He can be reached at [email protected]

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