Following a last-minute addition to his bill signing schedule, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a Maryland sports betting bill into law Tuesday.
The signature on HB 940 comes more than month after the state’s legislative body passed the bill April 12, the last day of the session. The General Assembly passed it as an emergency bill, so the Maryland State Lottery can start to develop regulations immediately and appoint commission members immediately.
Hogan signed more than 200 bills into law Tuesday, but specifically mentioned sports betting in Maryland during his intro statement.
Month wait for Maryland sports betting
The legislation was needed to enact MD sports betting, which the state’s voters approved in November 2020.
“We were going to get it done this session,” Sen. Craig Zucker told LSR. “Voters approved this almost 2-to-1. They sent us to Annapolis with a mandate and the General Assembly delivered.”
Zucker said NFL betting or the World Series are the target dates for launch.
Online sports betting operators likely to flock to Maryland
There will be 60 available online sports betting licenses in Maryland. That would be more than any other state has issued yet.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel tweeted out congratulations messages to the state, so they likely will among the first applicants. MGM Resorts and Penn National operate casinos in the state, so BetMGM and Barstool Sportsbook are likely first in line as well.
With so many online licenses available, most major sports betting apps could make their way to the state. The state’s casinos, racetracks and sports stadiums are eligible for Class A licenses for retail sportsbooks.
Sports facilities eligible for Class A:
- FedEx Field, Washington Football Team
- M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles
There are 30 Class B licenses available for small businesses to open retail sportsbooks, including for seven named entities, like the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
Retail license holders can also apply for online licenses.
Ripe customer base
Maryland is the 19th most populous state, with highly affluent residents.
The state is also part of the highly populated Mid-Atlantic region, with Washington DC commuters from across the Northeast.
Significant sports betting markets neighbor the state as well, including DC, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Waiting until the last minute
Despite the voters’ approval, the General Assembly was not required to pass MD sports betting legislation this year.
Legislator sentiments were positive early, but it still took until the last day of the legislative session for the Senate to pass the bill, 47-0.
“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so the entire first part of the session was focused on recovery and relief,” Zucker said. “That took up most of our efforts, but then we started to focus on the other priorities. We were going to get this done one way or another.”
There were some disparities between the two chambers, mostly the Senate’s desire to keep license numbers unlimited. A compromise between the chambers was reached over the weekend prior to sine die.
The House of Delegates concurred shortly after the Senate’s passage. The House passed the amended bill, 122-6. The chamber passed its original bill on March 11, 130-9.
Uncapped MD sports betting licenses could come back
Initial legislation had uncapped mobile licenses. States with a fraction of the licenses available still have open slots.
Zucker said the current limits are to help prevent oversaturation.
Should there still be demand for more licenses, the state can reconsider the number in December 2025.
Maryland sports betting payoff potential
Sports betting revenue will be taxed at a 15% rate. The state projected up to $20 million in annual tax revenue from sports betting.
A major focus for legislators was to ensure minority and female involvement in the Maryland sports betting industry.
The bill included an appropriation for $3 million to historically Black colleges and universities in the state. The two schools, Morgan State University and Bowie State University, both will receive $1.5 million to launch a Center for the Study of Data Analytics and Sports Gaming.
Small businesses key for legislators
Legislators also established the “Small, Minority-Owned, and Women-Owned Business Sports Wagering Assistant Fund.” A portion of each Class A license fee will pay into the fund.
The fund will help cover fees and other costs to help minority- and women-owned businesses succeed in the industry.
Ensuring the state’s small businesses can take part in the industry was a key point for many legislators, Zucker said.
“It should be standard practice to make sure everyone feels they have skin in the game,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it for the last year to make sure we get it up and running. We wanted to make sure we’re competitive with neighboring states and guarantee we have meaningful small, minority- and woman-owned business participation. We’re putting our words into action.”