Both Bills Legalize Maryland Sportsbooks But Only One Allows Online
Legal Sports Report

Dueling Maryland Sports Betting Bills Get First Look Today

Maryland sports betting legalization

We could find out which Maryland sports betting bill is preferred in the Senate after the two bills get their first hearings today.

SB 4 and SB 58 will be heard in the Budget and Taxation Committee at 1 p.m. Eastern. House hearings on their companion bills, HB 225 and HB 169 respectively, will come Feb. 4 at 1 p.m. in the Ways and Means Committee.

The two bills take vastly different approaches. While it’s obvious which one would be better for the industry, it’s unclear which the legislature will prefer.

Sports betting should be given serious consideration this year, Sen. Chris West, the sponsor of SB 58, told Legal Sports Report. He said he’s unaware of anyone that is against legalization.

Details of Maryland sports betting bills

The bill that would create a much better operating environment for casinos and sports betting operators is SB 4/HB 225. That’s because unlike SB 58 and HB 169, it would legalize online sports betting.

Each casino would get one sports betting license for six total in the state. That’s one difference from HB 225, which would allow the horse tracks to be licensed as well. Revenue would be taxed at 20%, the same rate for table games in the state.

The fees are a little heftier for SB 4, however, with $2.5 million due as an application fee. The licenses are for one year with a $250,000 license fee.

Sportsbooks could begin taking bets online almost immediately while permanent sportsbooks are under construction. Along with all professional and collegiate events, betting on esports would also be allowed as long as participants are 18 or older.

Fewer details on SB 58/HB 169

SB 58 was prefiled by West in December and lacked a lot of details.

West’s bill would give each casino or race track one sports betting license for 11 total. He also figured a revenue tax at 20% felt right, he said.

But there’s no online betting anywhere in his initiative. He called online betting a “horse of a different color” and added the state needed to “walk before we run,” starting with retail first.

Urgency to get MD sports betting legalized

Any changes to gambling laws in Maryland require a referendum that can only be held in even-number years, so there’s definitely an urgency to pass a law this year.

Maryland is also almost completely surrounded on its borders by sports betting. Pennsylvania and West Virginia already offer mobile sports betting while Delaware has retail sports betting. Mobile betting in Washington DC is also pending launch.

SB 4 and HB 225 acknowledge the need to get sports betting started as soon as possible:

…”It is the intent of the General Assembly that, in order to maintain the competitiveness of the State’s gaming program, the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency prepare to implement sports wagering in the State as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that is in the best interests of Maryland and its citizens…”

The bills call for the state’s gaming regulator to review how other states implemented sports betting and to consult with other regulators in those states. The regulator should also have draft regulations approved before the November election.

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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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