No Online Betting In Maryland's First 2020 Sports Betting Bill
Legal Sports Report

Maryland Has New Sports Betting Bill; Senator Optimistic For 2020

Maryland sports betting 2020

There’s likely enough appetite to get sports betting passed through Maryland‘s legislature this year and approved by voters, according to one state senator.

Sen. Chris West prefiled SB 58, which would allow horse tracks and casinos to offer sports betting. The bill does not include online or mobile betting, which West cautioned against.

“We should walk before we run,” West said.

Getting SB 58 passed is just the first step in the process for Maryland, which introduced casino gambling through the state constitution. That means adding new types of gambling requires a constitutional amendment through a referendum.

So even if the bill does pass the legislature, which West thinks should happen, it will be up to the voters come November.

Sports betting likely “will be given serious consideration this year,” West said. He doesn’t know anyone that’s against legalizing it, he added.

Maryland sports betting details

The prefiled bill is just two pages and doesn’t offer much detail.

We know there would be 11 sports betting licenses available based on five horse tracks and six casinos.

West suggested a 20% revenue tax felt about right. That’s the same tax rate for table games in Maryland.

An estimated $40 million to $60 million in annual tax revenue would be generated from sports betting, West said. That might be tough with just retail considering that would suggest $200 million to $300 million in annual sports betting revenue.

For comparison, sports betting revenue in New Jersey through 11 months is $270 million this year. But more than 80% of that revenue came from online, according to the most recent state report.

Maryland has about three million fewer people than New Jersey. The Old Line State also doesn’t have the added advantage of being a bridge away from New York, which sends a lot of sports betting business to New Jersey.

A fiscal and policy note from Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services based on 2019’s bill estimated $7.1 million in tax revenue from sports betting. That was based on sports betting accounting for 2% of Maryland’s gaming revenue as it does in Nevada.

Online betting is ‘horse of a different color’

West said he wrote the bill with Timonium Raceway, a track at the state fairgrounds in his district, in mind. The track only operates a few days a year during the state fair but could be busy year-round with a sportsbook.

He wouldn’t be surprised to see more sports betting bills, including ones that could try to legalize online sports betting.

West would caution against trying to amend online into his bill, though. Online sports betting raises “all kinds of issues” and could kill the bill, either in the general assembly or by voters, he said.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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