- Maryland Senate Plan Calls for Unlimited Sports Betting Licenses
- Both Online and Retail Sportsbook Locations Have No Cap
- Time Is Running Short to Pass a Sports Betting Bill
Regulated Maryland sports betting is coming. Voters passed a referendum in November, so now it is up to state lawmakers to devise the rules. The state Senate is considering a bill that would offer unlimited operator licenses. Both online and retail businesses could apply for the licenses. So long as they win approval, there would be as many regulated sportsbooks as the market can bear.
Maryland Sports Betting Addressed by Senate
The state House of Delegates has already passed their bill for implementing Maryland sports betting laws. Now, the Senate is considering their own version.
With the 2021 legislative session scheduled to end on Monday, April 12, lawmakers will need to hurry. The Senate’s sports betting rules differ from those passed by the House. That means there is a need for reconciliation before legislation can be sent to the governor.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign whatever implementation bill reaches his desk.
New Bill Expands Access to Licenses
The Maryland House passed rules calling for 15 online sportsbook operating licenses as well as 23 retail locations. There were immediate concerns that the limited numbers would shut out minority owned businesses. Despite these concerns, the bill passed by a vote of 129-10.
But the state Senate addressed concerns about minority representation in a novel way. Their bill will simply offer licenses to any qualified business. If the market supports more operators, more licenses will be granted.
As an additional boost for minority and women-owned businesses, the Senate bill creates a participation fund. A 5% surcharge on all class A and mobile licenses would go to boost their inclusion in this new industry. This provision addresses one of the key questions surrounding the House plan for Maryland sports betting.
Additional licenses not only will lead to increased competition but more revenue for the state. Due to initial fees, the Senate plan may add an additional windfall for government coffers.
Maryland Sports Betting Licenses Would Have Five Tiers
There are five tiers of licenses outlined in the Senate’s Maryland sports betting bill:
- Class A1 would cost $2 million upfront. These licenses would be for large casinos, horse racing tracks, and professional sports stadiums. Maryland’s professional franchises specifically lobbied for inclusion in this plan.
- Class A2 would cost $1 million initially and be reserved for casinos with fewer than 1,000 slot machines.
- Class B1 would cost $250,000 to start. Any in-person location, such as a bar or restaurant, could obtain these licenses.
- Class B2 licenses would only cost $50,000. But this tier is only for businesses with less than 25 employees and $3 million in annual sales. Some smaller or rural bars may qualify for this tier.
- A fifth tier would be for mobile sportsbook operators, and cost $500,000 to launch.
All licenses would be for five-year terms. After five years, operators must pay a lower renewal fee.
Class B licenses levy a 13% tax rate on betting revenue. All other licenses have a tax rate of 15%.
What’s Next for Maryland Gambling?
The Maryland Senate’s proposed $500,000 initial fee for mobile operators is lower than comparative states. But without a cap on the number of licenses, the state may get more total revenue from licenses. Some smaller online operators may see opportunity in the Maryland market, especially with lower start-up costs.
The Senate will attempt to pass its bill over the weekend. A debate between the Senate and House plans can then quickly be resolved. Supporters would like to see some retail locations and online operators up and running before fall football season.