Maryland Adds Sports Betting to November Ballot
Maryland adds sports betting to the November ballot, after the legislature faced a looming deadline following the coronavirus crisis cutting the legislative session short – Members of the Maryland General Assembly scrambled to pass a sports betting bill on Wednesday.
In doing so, lawmakers in both chambers offered almost unanimous support for the bill before sending it to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan. If the Governor elects to sign the bill into law, the following question will be put to voters via a ballot referendum in November:
“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?”
But while lawmakers largely agreed that Maryland should be the next state to authorize legal sportsbooks, the industry’s eventual framework was left unclear thanks to a last-minute amendment.
House Decides to Scrap Senate’s Structure and Take Second Look in 2021
Introduced by state senator Craig Zucker (D-14) back in January, the bill proposed allowing retail sportsbooks to be built at the following locations:
- Pimlico Race Course
- Laurel Park
- Maryland State Fairgrounds
- MGM National Harbor
- Live! Casino
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
- Ocean Downs Casino
- Rocky Gap Casino
- Hollywood Casino Perryville
The bill also stipulated that Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder could apply to offer sports wagering within FedEx Field, contingent on renovating or replacing the aging facility in Landover.
With neighboring Virginia recently passing a sports betting bill – and Snyder rumored to be interested in moving the Redskins’ home venue there – the billionaire owner reportedly leaned on local lawmakers ahead of the Senate vote.
Speaking to Legal Sports Report, Zucker confirmed that keeping the Redskins in Maryland motivated his inclusion of a stadium sportsbook allowance:
“We want to make sure the Redskins continue to invest in Prince George’s County.
This is a good way to make sure that partnership continues and also requires a community benefits agreement.”
Other provisions in Zucker’s bill called for betting on pro and college sports, with no restrictions on in-state schools and universities.
Operators would’ve paid taxes of 20 percent on the gross revenue, with 19 percent of those funds slotted for statewide educational funding.
However, in a surprising development, lawmakers in the state House of Delegates essentially decided to erase Zucker’s bill entirely. After adding an amendment which strikes all but one page of the 25-page bill, the House held a 129 to 3 vote on Tuesday that sent shell legislation back to the Senate.
On the last day of an abbreviated session Wednesday, the Senate concurred with the House’s changes via 45 to 0 vote.
After the Senate President announced the House’s amendment, Zucker remained magnanimous in accepting his bill’s erasure:
“Well, it needed to go to referendum to approve sports betting and that will happen.
Assuming the voters approve it, then we will be allowed to do it. We had a bill that did both that and a whole implementation program.
The House would not agree to that implementation program, so we’re going to have to go back and have that discussion again.”
What Comes Next for Maryland Sports Betting Bill?
Assuming it’s eventually signed by Hogan, who has previously stated his support for regulated sports betting, SB-4 adds the aforementioned question to November’s ballot.
Polling has shown that 47 percent of Maryland voters support legal sports betting, while 43 percent oppose the idea, but as Zucker told Legal Sports Report, citizens can decide for themselves at the ballot box:
“Polling is mixed but I’ve heard from constituents who really want it. It’s not for me to decide, it’s for them.
If they want it, they can vote for it. If not, they can reject it.
But it’s going to be up to the voters of Maryland.”