The sponsor of a bill to legalize Maryland sports betting believes issues raised in the House could have been solved if not for a session shortened by coronavirus concerns.
Sen. Craig Zucker tells Legal Sports Report that if the session adjourned April 6 as scheduled instead of March 17, he believes there would have been time to work out differences with the House.
“I think if we had the three weeks, it absolutely would have made a difference,” Zucker said. “I just don’t think we had enough time to work out the issues with the House given that we were on a severely truncated schedule.”
Del. Nick Mosby, who led the charge to strip S 4 of its licensing language over inclusion concerns, disagrees. He told LSR last week that his issues with the bill couldn’t be solved in three weeks.
Sponsor unaware of House issues with the bill
Zucker said he wasn’t aware that his legislation would meet such roadblocks in the House.
His bill would have legalized Maryland sports betting at four casinos, three racetracks and, potentially, a Washington Redskins stadium and practice facility.
Mosby and members of the House Legislative Black Caucus asked for a disparity study to be conducted before determining how minority- and women-owned businesses could be included in sports betting in Maryland.
“In the Senate, we wanted to make sure it was as inclusive as possible,” Zucker said. “We had a bipartisan workgroup that worked out what the legislation would look like. That’s why it passed unanimously out of the Senate.”
Zucker noted that 1% of revenue from MD sports betting is set to go to the minority business enterprise program in the Senate bill came out of the workgroup.
“A lot of people worked to make this the best possible legislation to put in front of Maryland voters. We wanted to make sure it had a strong minority business enterprise component. Ultimately, this is about Marylanders deciding they want to have sports betting and making sure we’re funding children’s future.”
Chances for Maryland sports betting in 2021
If voters approve the Maryland sports betting referendum in November, Zucker can’t imagine a scenario in which the legislature or regulators would fail to set up some kind of framework next year.
“The way the legislation finished is, it allows Marylanders to have a say on sports betting at the ballot box in November,” Zucker said. “If it’s their wisdom to move forward, we’ll decide what it looks like another day when we have more time.”
Zucker indicated that it’s possible, with voter approval and the governor’s permission, that the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission could determine how to conduct MD sports betting as soon as January with no legislative action.
Expect a slower path in Maryland
However, he expects the regulators will wait for the legislature to provide instructions by passing a bill, which he thinks could happen in March. Maryland’s 2021 legislative session begins the second week of January and concludes the second week of April.
The legislation will have to start the process over again, with the House and Senate each introducing a bill and putting it through the committee process.
“I haven’t had any conversations with members of the House delegation about their issues with the bill,” Zucker said. “I look forward to working with them as a team, if Maryland voters approve this, to figure out what legislation will look like. I’m not going to strategize until I see what Maryland voters decide in November and we get through the current pandemic.”