Maryland General Assembly discussions regarding sports wagering in Maryland are heating up, and the thermostat was raised as the Washington Redskins’ reported interest in having a sports book at FedEx Field was formally broached.
At a House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee hearing Feb. 4 regarding proposed legislation allowing sports gambling in Maryland, a Redskins spokesman asked the Ways and Means Committee to include in that legislation (House Bill 225) a provision that would allow its sports venue, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to have a sports book.
The Redskins representative noted that sports betting regulations already passed in Washington D.C., would allow for sports wagering at four sports venues there, including Capital One Arena, where the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards play, and at Nationals Park, where baseball’s World Series champion Washington Nationals play. The others are Audi Field and the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Currently, the Maryland House proposal would allow for sports wagering — both in-person and online — at the state’s six casinos and at racetracks. Also wanting to be included are the state’s handful of off-track betting parlors and the Timonium Fairgrounds that has some live racing and an OTB.
If sports gambling legislation advances through the General Assembly and the governor approves it, the question of sports wagering would still have to be decided by the state’s voters in a referendum in November.
Previously, news reports have indicated that the Redskins had approached Maryland legislators to include FedEx Field in sports gambling legislation. However, at the Ways and Means Committee hearing, that appeal was explicit.
“Two years ago, sports betting was illegal in America except for a couple of places. It is moving so quickly,” said Justin Ross, representing the Redskins. Soon, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Soldier Field could have sports betting, he said.
With Washington, D.C., regulations allowing for sports venues in the District to have sports betting, “what we’re asking for is for FedEx Field be included into this legislation and be treated as any other [sports betting] licensee be treated,” Ross said.
The Redskins representative said the team would commit to a year-round facility, although the team itself would not run the sports book.
“It would clearly look for partners,” Ross said. “We’ll look for the best partners in the industry, from a bricks-and-mortar standpoint and from a mobile [online] standpoint.”
A question raised by the Redskins’ proposal is: If the Redskins are allowed to have a sports book in their Maryland stadium, how about the Ravens and the Orioles, who also play in venues in Maryland?
While the Redskins would not run the sports book, such a place would offer a “point-of-entry as an amenity” to fans in the stadium.
“This is the future,” the Redskins representative said. “This is how people are going to bet a lot of the times. We are competing, eight miles away, with … arenas that are all going to be able to offer it, so we humbly request that we be included in the legislation.”
In addition to House Bill 225, other sports gambling bills, one with significant differences, is proposed in the Maryland state senate. Senate Bill 4 would limit sports betting licenses to casinos only. The Redskins have also provided input regarding state senate proposals.
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