What State Senate Vote Means For Legalized Sports Gambling In Maryland

If legislation were a football drive, legalized sports gambling in Maryland made an impressive gain on first down when the state senate approved its version of a sports wagering bill, 47-0, March 10.

However, there’s still plenty of distance to be covered.

A sports wagering bill would have to be passed in the House of Delegates and Gov. Larry Hogan would have to approve whatever bill emerges before the question of sports gambling is put before the voters in a November referendum.

The state senate’s sports betting bill would allow for both retail sports books (meaning a physical location where customers place their wagers) and online betting using a computer or mobile device as long as the bettor is within the state.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited most states from offering sports gambling (Nevada had been grandfathered in allowing full-scale sports betting), 14 states have introduced expanded sports gambling and another five or six are expected to have sports wagering operational this year.

The Maryland senate bill would allow sports book operations at the state’s six casinos, two major thoroughbred race tracks (Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park), the Timonium Fair Grounds, and possibly a new Washington Redskins stadium in Prince George’s County. The Redskins pressed to be included in sports betting.

In the senate bill, sports book operators would be paying some of the heftiest fees and tax rates among states that have so far started sports wagering. The issue of fees and tax rates may be of interest to bettors since higher costs to operators could be passed on to customers in the form of less attractive odds and payouts.

The state senate bill provides for a $2.5 million initial licensing fee for the state’s three larger casinos; the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico and Laurel, and the Redskins, according to a published report. There would be a $1.5 million licensing fee for the three smaller casinos and the fair grounds, according to reports.

The tax rate would be in the range of 20 percent with the majority of tax money going toward supporting education.

For comparison, New Jersey, which has the most robust sports gambling operations outside Nevada, has a combined tax rate of 9.75 percent for retail wagering and 13 percent for online. Pennsylvania is at the high end of the tax scale with a 36 percent tax rate.

In the Maryland senate version, gambling would be permitted on professional and college sports and on eSports under certain circumstances.

Although the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles apparently did not ask to participate in sports betting, it remains to be seen whether they will be added in a House version of a sports betting bill.

Photo Credit: The sports book at Delaware Park (Courtesy of Delaware Park)