Maryland Sports Betting Referendum Moves Forward In Mad Rush

Maryland state legislators pushed through a sports betting referendum in a mad rush of legislation before its COVID-19 related adjournment. With Governor Larry Hogan’s signature, the Maryland sports betting referendum could move forward in November as planned.

Maryland is looking to join many of its Northeastern neighbors in the legal sports betting arena. The Free State took its first steps toward regulation earlier this year.

There’s no firm launch date in place yet, but all signs point to Maryland approving sports betting by the end of 2020.

COVID-19 Related Flurry Of Legislation

It was a mad rush in the state congressional chambers, with a flurry of legislation rushed through before it adjourned due to COVID-19.

Sports betting proponents worried the referendum would be shelved during this rush. Instead, the bill raced through in the nick of time. Though still awaiting Gov. Hogan’s signature, Maryland voters should have their say in November.

The Maryland Sports Betting Referendum Pushes Forward

In March, Maryland’s Senate passed a sports betting bill that would allow retail and online sports betting in the state subject to voter approval. Although the bill that passed doesn’t legalize sports betting in the state, it takes the next step towards enaction.

The bill specifically set the date for a voter referendum. If voters approve the step forward, then state lawmakers would determine which companies can apply for licenses. Licenses would apply to both retail and online sports betting.

Where Maryland Stands Now

The final bill would authorize six of the state’s casinos and three racetracks to offer sports betting. It’s possible that the Washington Redskins stadium, FedExField in Landover, could launch sports betting under the new law as well.

The bill passed in the state senate with a unanimous vote of 47-0.

Maryland’s sports betting progress in March was particularly timely, too. Neighboring Virginia passed similar legislation, a move perceived by some as a ploy to entice the Washington Redskins to move to the state.

Maryland’s Next Steps

Any change in gambling law requires a change to Maryland’s state constitution. Amendments to the state’s constitution must be approved by public referendum. Maryland only holds referendums on even-numbered years. This makes 2020  a perfect time for such a referendum.

Now that the state senate has passed the bill, the governor needs to approve. Governor Larry Hogan has voiced support for sports betting in the past, so it’s all but guaranteed the issue will make the referendum ballot this November.

According to iGaming Business, the referendum question would read “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?”

Still, a successful referendum vote would mark the beginning of a much longer journey for Maryland sports betting. If the vote passes the state would need to put regulations and licensing processes in place, then eligible operators would have to apply for licenses and build out their products before launch.

Sports betters could see a launch in 2021, though 2022 looks more likely.

What’s On Maryland’s Sports Betting Menu?

If the bill passes referendum in November, Maryland will have a lot to offer to the sports betting landscape.

Professional and college sports betting will be permitted. This includes in-state collegiate matches. This is a departure from many other state policies, some of which tend to prohibit in-state college sports. Other states bar wagering on college sports altogether.

Esports betting will also be part of Maryland’s portfolio. Esports have seen a spike in growth amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Their growing popularity in general means states that offer esports betting could have a leg up on their competition.

Maryland will tax sports betting at a rate of 20%. The vast majority of those funds will support the state’s education initiatives.

Sizing Up The Competition

Maryland’s move to support sports betting will give players in the state a hearty sports betting offer. That’s a good thing for the state, bettors, and operators alike, as Maryland sits in a hotbed region for US sports betting. Maryland shares borders with Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Virginia.

Virginia is making parallel progress to Maryland on the legalized sports betting front. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, however, all have sports betting live in healthy, competitive markets.

Nearby New Jersey, meanwhile, is a pioneer in sports betting. Many states look to New Jersey as a prime example of sports betting legislation.

While Maryland could stand to learn from the regulations its counterparts have in place, it also has some experienced competition. Offers like esports and collegiate betting could set it apart and help the Free State carve out its own sports betting niche within a crowded region.

About the Author

Cole Rush

Cole Rush is a Chicago-based freelance writer in the gambling, media, and entertainment space. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns. Prior to freelance writing, Cole spent seven years in communications at a gambling and lottery supplier. Cole writes for a number of online and print publications, including The Quill To Live, a book review site.