Legislators opted to take a half-measures approach to Maryland sports betting in 2020, but voters chose to make it legal at the ballot box.
The Senate passed a full-fledged MD sports betting bill to put in front of voters. The House also passed the bill, but it removed all the language of how sports betting in Maryland would be conducted.
Voters approved sports betting in November 2020, and the legislature will have to take up the issue again next year to work out the details of authorizing the activity.
The future of sports betting in Maryland
The question put to voters in November 2020 was:
“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 approved the referendum, giving the legislature a directive to figure out how to properly implement sports betting in the state and pass another bill in 2021.
The legislative referendum bill ordered a disparity study, due Oct. 1, It could be the key to the Senate and House reaching an agreement on the inclusion aspect MD sports betting.
Legislation signed into law by the governor would go into effect on July 1, which could leave just enough time for sports betting to get up and running by the 2021 NFL season.
When will online sports betting launch in Maryland?
Online sports betting was included in the sports betting legislation that passed in the Senate in 2020.
The bill permitted the created nine potential licenses, one for each of the six state casinos, two for the three racetracks, and one for the stadium and practice facilities for the Washington Redskins or another major league sports franchise if certain conditions are met.
Each licensee would be allowed to partner with one online sports betting operator.
Mobile sports wagering is expected to remain in the 2021 MD sports betting bill, which could have people placing legal bets on their phone in Maryland by that NFL season.
Recent Maryland sports betting news
Legal betting options in Maryland
Aside from betting on horse racing and fantasy sports, there are no legal sportsbook websites that accept bets from anyone within the state of Maryland.
There are illegal offshore websites that offer sports betting in Maryland. They do not have a license from any US jurisdiction to legally accept bets within the country.
Without protection from the state, these offshore apps can’t be relied on to pay out winnings and have been known to disappear with bettors’ money.
The only safe and insured way to bet on sports in the United States is with a licensed operator.
Most popular sports to bet in Maryland
Football is king with two teams housed in Maryland.
NFL betting in Maryland
The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins play home games in Maryland. The ability to have betting at team facilities has become part of the battle for the Redskins between Maryland and Virginia.
MLB betting in Maryland
The Baltimore Orioles have the love of many Marylanders in Major League Baseball.
Being adjacent to Washington, DC, many people in Maryland have an affinity for teams based in the nation’s capitol. This is particularly true for the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals.
NBA and NHL betting in Maryland
Maryland doesn’t have any NBA or NHL teams, so many people in the state adopt the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals as their teams. The Wizards started in Maryland as the aptly-named Baltimore Bullets.
NCAA betting in Maryland
In college sports, the Maryland Terrapins basketball team figures to be popular for betting. The Army-Navy college football rivalry game also always draws a lot of wagering interest.
Maryland and Daily Fantasy Sports
Maryland was the first state to explicitly legalize fantasy sports in 2012.
Although that was well before daily fantasy sports were around, Maryland implemented regulations to oversee the industry in 2017. The next year, Maryland passed a law moving regulation of the fantasy sports industry to the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.
Sites that operate in Maryland include DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo!, and Fantasy Draft.
The minimum age to participate in fantasy sports in Maryland is 18. Operators are not allowed to offer contests on college sports.
Is horse racing legal in Maryland?
Run at Pimlico Race Course since 1873, the Preakness is the middle leg in the Triple Crown. Winning at the Kentucky Derby is the sport’s crown jewel, but that same horse winning at the Preakness creates the excitement of a Triple Crown contender.
Other racetracks in the state are Laurel Park and Timonium at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, both of which could have sports betting.
Maryland also has a rich history in steeplechase racing going back more than 100 years. The Fair Hill Races are the only US steeplechase event with parimutuel betting.
Horse racing in Maryland is overseen by the Maryland Racing Commission.
Maryland sports betting timeline
2020 – To the ballot we go …
After two false starts, Maryland came out serious about legalizing sports betting.
Neighboring Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Washington, DC, had legalized sports betting and legislators didn’t want Maryland to be left behind.
Maryland held a couple of early hearings on sports betting, and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder spoke with lawmakers lobbying for a bill that included team facilities.
In March, sports betting in Maryland seemed like a lock to pass after the Senate sent a strong message by passing legislation unanimously.
However, the next week, the House removed the sports betting operational details and turned the bill, turning it into a mere ballot referendum. The Senate reluctantly concurred with the House decision.
Del. Nick Mosby later explained that the House took this course because of concerns of inclusion.
Following a disparity study ordered in the bill, he wants the legislature to explore ways that minority- and women-owned businesses could participate in sports betting.
Bill sponsor Sen. Craig Zucker believed the chambers could have worked out their differences if the session wasn’t cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill would have legalized sports betting at six Maryland casinos, three racetracks and, potentially, a Redskins stadium and practice facility. The legislation set high license fees ranging from $1.5 million to $2.5 million, with a 20% tax rate that include 1% to the Minority Business Enterprise program.
At least by getting sports betting legalization on the ballot, sports betting in Maryland is set to happen in 2021 — if voters want it.
This time, the Maryland legislature tried to maneuver around the need for a constitutional amendment at the ballot box.
In 2007, Maryland voters approved a measure requiring any commercial gambling expansion to appear on the ballot.
The state lottery does not fall under that requirement, though, so lawmakers tried to push for a bill to legalize sports betting at lottery retailers and racetracks.
That would have been to the detriment of casinos in the state, which made it unlikely to pass.
Near the end of the session, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told legislators that sports betting indeed does need voter approval, setting the stage for 2020’s efforts.
Before the US Supreme Court even overturned PASPA, Maryland tried to be one of first states out of the gate on sports betting.
Ironically given what happened in 2020, it was the House that overwhelmingly passed a MD sports betting bill that would have put the issue in front of voters two years ago. The bill did not gain any traction in the Senate.
Maryland sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Maryland?
Yes, pending launch. Voters approved legal sports betting in Maryland in November 2020. Right now there are no legal options for sports betting in Maryland. Only illegal offshore websites operate in the state.
Who would oversee betting in Maryland?
The bill passed by the Senate in 2020 assigned the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to oversee sports wagering.
Will mobile sports betting be allowed?
Most likely. The bill passed by the Senate in 2020 permitted as many as nine websites to offer online sports betting in Maryland.
There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from the United States. Are those legal options?
No. There are currently no sportsbook operators that are licensed at the federal level, which means all US sportsbooks are licensed at the state level. Any website that suggests betting from anywhere in the US is allowed is a website that operators offshore.
It is not legal for those sites to accept bets from US citizens and those sites offer no protection to those who bet on them.