Unanimous Senate Vote Sends Maryland Sports Betting Bill Forward With Momentum

Posted on March 10, 2020

Maryland sports betting took its first major step toward legalization on Tuesday, days after neighboring Virginia cleared its own bill.

The Senate unanimously passed a Maryland sports betting bill by a vote of 47-0.

Sponsored by Sen. Craig Zucker, S 4 would legalize retail and online sports betting for six Maryland casinos, three racetracks, and potentially a Washington Redskins stadium and practice facility.

Virginia passed its sports betting bill designed in part to attract Washington’s NFL team over the weekend. The team lobbied both legislatures to facilitate a potential new stadium that could facilitate legal sports wagering.

The Maryland bill advances to the House with less than a month until the legislature adjourns April 6.

What’s in Maryland sports betting bill

Here are the key components of the MD sports betting bill passed by the Senate:

  • Allows betting on professional and collegiate sports, including college teams that are in the state.
  • Wagering also is allowed on competition sanctioned by an esports governing entity.
  • A tax rate of 20%, with 19% going to educational funding and 1% to the Minority Business Enterprise program.
  • Off-track betting facilities can partner with a licensee to have sports betting.
  • Includes no integrity fee or official league data mandate as payments to professional sports leagues.

Breakdown of MD sports betting fees

The Senate bill uses a tiered structure for expensive initial licenses:

A fee of $2.5 million for casinos with 1,000 or more video lottery terminals or the owner of a pro sports team. Included in this tier:

  • MGM National Harbor
  • Live! Casino
  • Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
  • Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins
  • Stronach Group’s Maryland Jockey Club would share a license for its two racetracks, Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.

A fee of $1.5 million for casinos with fewer than 1,000 video lottery terminals. This category includes:

  • Ocean Downs Casino
  • Rocky Gap Casino
  • Hollywood Casino Perryville
  • Maryland State Fairgrounds

Licenses may be renewed every five years at 25% of the initial cost.

Zucker said that the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens didn’t request to participate, but could be added on the House side.

Prospects for sports betting in Maryland House

The House has two Maryland sports betting bills that haven’t advanced through committee. H 225 is similar to the Senate bill on entities allowed to participate and fees.

There is precedent for supporting legal sports betting in the House. That chamber passed a sports betting bill back in 2018 in anticipation of the overturning of PASPA.

The Senate wasn’t ready to move forward then.

Governor a previous supporter

Now the House has the opportunity to provide final legislative approval to regulate sports betting.

The issue would then need to get by the governor before going in front of voters in November. Gov. Larry Hogan has shown support for sports betting legalization in the past.

There’s an urgency to get a sports betting law in front of voters this year. Otherwise, Maryland will have to wait for the next election in late 2022 to get sports betting approved while neighboring jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Washington, DC, and likely Virginia extend their advantage.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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