Annapolis, MD - While lifting the federal sports betting ban was a major win for the nation as a whole, there are still individual states where the fight for legal sports wagering is ongoing. One of these states is Maryland, where the horse racing industry and casino operators are at odds on who should be able to accept bets on sports.
Casino Operators vs. Horse Tracks
Joe Weinberg, CEO of Cordish Global Gaming, which owns Maryland Live! Casino, expressed his vision of the future of sports betting in Maryland.
“The Court’s decision is both a victory for state’s rights and for the millions of Americans who want to legally bet on sports in a safe, regulated environment,” stated Weinberg.
“Sports betting should be made available exclusively through the regulated casinos in Maryland, where it is best positioned to protect consumers and maximize tax revenues to the state.”
On the other hand, horse racing operators see sports wagering as an opportunity to help revitalize a struggling industry. Tim Ritvo, COO of the Stronach Group, stated how sports wagering could add more to the overall experience at racetracks like Pimlico, which the group owns.
While he does not think that sports gambling is going to revolutionize the industry, “it’s an added amenity for a customer, where he can go to an event like a race track and bet some races and bet some games… it becomes a social experience.”
The House vs. The Senate
The landmark decision in Murphy vs. NCAA did not legalize sports betting across the United States, it merely removed the prohibition on sports gambling. As such, each state can decide whether to regulate sports wagering and determine which entities are eligible for licensure.
Like many states, Maryland introduced a preemptive sports betting bill prior to the ruling on the New Jersey sports betting case. While states like West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania were successful, the Maryland General Assembly was not able to agree on the language of the bill.
Introduced by the House of Delegates, MD HB 1014 http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=hb1014&tab=subject3&ys=2018rs authorized wagering at horse racing tracks and licensed casinos throughout the state. The bill quickly passed the House by a margin of 124-14, giving the impression that it would fare well in the upper chamber.
On the contrary, the House and Senate could not agree on details such as whether or not casinos should hold exclusive rights over sports betting. Aside from a committee hearing, no further action was taken on the bill in the Senate.
When Will A Resolution Be Made?
If the House and Senate would have been able to pass the sports betting bill, the referendum would have appeared on the November 2018 voter ballot. The next legislative session will not begin until January 2019, and a spokeswoman for Governor Larry Hogan has stated that there are no plans to call a special session.
MD HB 1014 was not the first sports betting bill to be introduced in Maryland, and it certainly will not be the last.
Senator Nancy King had introduced MD SB 0836 http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=sb0836&tab=subject3&ys=2018rs around the same time as the House bill, however, it also died in the Senate. The Senate bill was more general compared to MD HB 1014, simply calling for a sports wagering referendum without stating which parties would be eligible for licensure.
Both of these bills were proposed prior to the Supreme Court ruling on the New Jersey case. With sports betting in Maryland now a reality, King and other policymakers are more motivated to come to a consensus during the 2019 legislative session. If an agreement is made next year, the earliest we would see legal Maryland sportsbooks is 2020.
"I think we'll do more working with the House to come up with some bill both sides can agree on early in the game," she said. "It would be nice to get it worked out early and get it on the ballot to let the voters decide."