Maryland Sports Betting Ballot Question: What You Should Know Before You Vote

Posted on October 26, 2020

Maryland is one of three states that will vote on whether or not to allow sports betting in the 2020 election.

None of the votes in Louisiana, Maryland or South Dakota will lead to sports betting launching in the near future, however. The votes in all three states are simple yes or no votes that will require further action from each legislature if sports betting is approved.

Here’s what we know about the vote to approve or reject Maryland sports betting:

What is the Maryland sports betting ballot question?

Maryland is appealing to voters by focusing on how sports betting will help the state’s children:

“Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

Voters should be familiar with the issue by now. Both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have funded the “Vote Yes on Question 2” campaign since the summer.

When would MD legal sports betting be available?

Legal sports betting would still take some time to be implemented.

Since the referendum doesn’t lock down any specifics for sports betting, it will still take legislation to implement rules on sports betting. That means Maryland could be without legal sports betting until next NFL season.

What those rules could look like differs based on whom you ask. Some think Maryland’s legislature could start from scratch on sports betting. Sen. Craig Zucker, whose sports betting bill was eventually stripped to put the question on the ballot, thinks his proposal is a good starting point.

What are the current legal betting options in Maryland?

If Maryland fails to legalize sports betting, its residents will continue to bet in both legal and illegal markets. The state simply will lose out on any tax possibilities.

At this point, every jurisdiction that borders Maryland has legalized sports betting:

  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC
  • West Virginia

All are live except VA sports betting, which launches in January 2021.

Zucker pointed out how a Maryland resident in downtown Silver Spring can walk a block away and place a legal bet through GambetDC’s mobile DC sports betting app. It’s not just about the lack of tax dollars but the loss of convenience for Marylanders as well, he added.

Would mobile sports betting be legalized?

Most likely, yes, mobile MD sports betting will be legalized.

Zucker’s proposal would have allowed casinos and racetracks to offer both retail and online sports betting. Plenty of mobile sportsbooks have access to the state already through either market-access agreements or casino ownership, so it’s far more likely than not that mobile betting would be legalized.

Without mobile, the legislature will put its casinos at a big disadvantage to competition in neighboring jurisdictions. Delaware is the only bordering state without mobile betting, even though its law allows it.

What are the chances of the referendum passing?

There are a couple of reasons why the referendum will likely pass.

Recent polling seen by local media outlets suggests a majority of Marylanders are in favor of legalizing sports betting.

Of course, casino operators in the state are behind the idea as a way to bring in more revenue, whether it’s through sports betting itself or through cross-selling to restaurants and table games.

There’s another entity even bigger than the casinos that is interested: the Washington Football Team. The WFT, which plays its games in Landover, MD at FedEx Field, showed interest in a sports betting license of its own.

A sports betting license would be available to the team if it moved to Virginia. Its lease at FedEx Field is up in 2027 as well, so there are multiple reasons for the Maryland legislature to be incentivized to keep owner Dan Snyder happy.

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Matthew Waters

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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