The Legality Of Sports Betting

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By Ed Reilly
Senator, District 33

By the time you read this article, the Super Bowl has been played and either the Rams or the Patriots are the Super Bowl champs. It is a commonly known fact that the Super Bowl is the most bet-on sporting event in the world, followed by March Madness. The potential gaming tax revenue from these two events is not being captured in Maryland because sports betting is not legal. Meanwhile, because a Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 removed a federal ban on sports betting, states surrounding Maryland — including Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and recently the District of Columbia — all have legalized sports betting. Today, Maryland residents can legally go to neighboring states and bet on sporting events.

Last year, legislation to legalize sports betting was submitted in the legislature and passed in the House of Delegates by a 124-14 vote, but it failed to pass in the Senate before the end of session. This legislation was a referendum item that would have placed the question to legalize sports betting on the November 2018 ballot. Since this legislation was not passed, it has been delayed until the next election cycle in November 2020.

Some members of the Maryland legislature are looking to get sports betting into law this session to become law in 2020. The new plan is to place sports betting under the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission regulatory system. A 2007 law requires any new commercial games to go to referendum, but the lottery is exempt from this law. Not only would this new legislation have the lottery as the regulatory body, but it would also stipulate the locations. The legality of this option is still being discussed.

One reason sports betting bill did not pass in the Senate last year was the inability to decide whether to allow sports betting at the racetracks. The House included the racetracks in the bill that they passed, but the Senate members couldn’t agree on this part of the legislation, and the bill failed. The locations are yet to be decided by the legislature, but the general thinking is that sports betting will be at the six Maryland casinos and possibly the racetracks. The casinos would prefer having sports betting allowed only in their existing facilities, and not inclusive of the tracks. The Maryland Stadium Authority is encouraging other kinds of betting at the racetracks to bring additional revenue into tracks such as Laurel and Pimlico.

The casino owners in Maryland, MGM National Harbor, Live Casino & Hotel, Horseshoe in Baltimore, Ocean Downs, Hollywood Casino and Rocky Gap Casino are looking forward to the legalization of sports betting. If it is legalized, the casinos can offer Las Vegas style sports booking rooms. However, it’s a difficult decision as to who will offer sports betting, and then there is a question of how much the organizations that offer sports betting will pay Maryland in licensing fees and taxes. If Maryland’s sports betting totaled 2 percent of the state’s gaming revenues, the gross revenue payouts could increase by $33.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020. The legislation should stipulate that the money will be put into a lockbox for education in Maryland.

There is a push to keep Maryland competitive with the surrounding states that have approved sports betting, and to capture this revenue in our state. Sports betting already has the support of Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch. If this legislation comes before me, I will support it. If you have an opinion on allowing sports betting in Maryland, contact me at edward.reilly@senate.state.md.us.

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