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Maryland Sports Betting Bill Moves to the Senate

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Maryland Sports Betting Bill Moves to the Senate
A general view of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 08, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

Like most prospective legal sports betting hopefuls, the state of Maryland has experienced its share of controversies, amendments, and debate about just what their legal sports betting platform is going to look like. Through it all, it looks like Maryland is on the cusp of something tangible in their search for common ground regarding their legal sports betting scene.

Given the go-ahead by voters by a 2-1 margin on the November ballot, Maryland lawmakers have been working diligently on laws governing what could potentially be a lucrative Maryland sports betting market. And now House Bill 940, the most comprehensive piece of legislation thus far has been moved to the Senate and is now waiting on final approval.

Time is quickly running out on chances for a 2021 launch. The Maryland General Assembly adjourns for the year April 12, making this week critical for the future of legal sports betting in the state.

House Bill 940

House Bill 940 is expected to be heard Thursday on the Maryland Senate floor after a Wednesday Senate Budget and Taxation Committee unanimously passed changes to the original legislation. This after the House passed its own version of the Bill on March 11.

Optimism of a resolution before Monday’s deadline is sky high. “We are going to get sports betting done this year,” Senator Craig Zucker said during Tuesday’s meeting. Passage of legislation would mean that statewide mobile and retail sports betting would become a reality in yet another potentially large market.

The NFL season looks like the goal for official launch of a Maryland sports betting scene, giving regulators 5-6 months to iron out all of the kinks.

Some More Details

According to the House Bill, there will be 37 legal sports betting licenses up for grabs in Maryland including 12 Class A licenses for casinos, horse tracks and stadiums, 10 Class B licenses for local businesses and 15 mobile sports betting licenses.

The Senate was able to break it down even further with an emphasis on giving everyone a shot at succeeding in the state’s platform. “We wanted to make sure everyone had an opportunity to have skin in the game and have an opportunity to not only be part of this but to grow, especially when it comes to small minority- and women-owned businesses,” Zucker said.

The Senate amended tax rate calls for Class A operators to pay 15% of gross gaming revenue, a slight difference from the House bill which imposed a 15% on the first $5 million of ggr and 17.5% for ggr above that. The tax rate for Class B operators would be a flat 13%.

Class A and B operators will pay between a $2 million initial fee with a $500,000 renewal fee and $250,000 initial fee with a $50,000 renewal fee. According to the legislation, both Class A licenses will be somewhat unique in their goals. The fees will hopefully drive the funding for minority-owned and women-owned businesses looking to launch and succeed in the industry.

The Motivation

Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland legislature have had a good view of what a legal sports betting platform can do for a state. All of the surrounding states currently have robust and successful platforms that are aiding in revenue generation for state and local coffers.

“Every jurisdiction around us has sports betting, so you have people in Maryland who walk a block, go into D.C. and bet, then walk home,” said Sen. Craig Zucker during the committee meeting. “So, there is an urgency.”

Voters in the state also voted 2-1 in favor of legal sports betting in November.

The Good News

The good news for the potential legal sports betting industry is that a decision on its future in the state is imminent. It is in the Senate’s hands to find some common ground by Monday.

It looks as though the decision on a potential legal sports betting platform in Maryland will come down to the wire, but momentum is on the proponents’ side. Amendments will surely be made, including the potential of a “no-cap” proposal, which paves the way for unlimited sportsbooks to operate in the state.

We will know my Monday about Maryland’s chances of legal sports betting. Smart money is on a “Yes” from lawmakers in the state.