his Tuesday, the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held a hearing on Bill HB 1014, which contemplates commercial gaming expansion in the state and inclusion of sports betting in Maryland. HB 1014, which is only two pages long, would allow the State Lottery and Gaming Commission to license “certain sports wagering licenses.”
The bill also calls for the issue of sports betting in Maryland to be put on the November ballot, if possible, as a referendum for voters to decide. According to Delegate Frank Turner’s brief testimony, should the bill be passed by the end of the Maryland General Assembly session, there would be ample time to get the issue on the next ballot, in November.
During his testimony, Turner (D-District 16) pointed out that the bill calls for revenue from sports wagering in Maryland to go the state’s Education Trust Fund and is, as with bills across the nation, subject to the United States Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, clearing the way for states to make sports betting legal. PASPA is the 1992 law that effectively bans sports wagering in all states except Nevada. A decision is expected before the end of the current Supreme Court session in June.
HB 1014 passed in the Maryland House, 124-14, on March 12. At that time, according to Turner, the House “decided, of course, after much discussion, that [sports betting] would be put at both the racetracks and casinos.” Maryland, home to the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, has five horse race tracks, including Baltimore’s Pimlico, host of the Preakness Stakes. The state has six casinos.
Industry insiders have said that lawmakers would like to see this bill pass and the referendum put on the ballot by November, in order to make sports betting in Maryland legal and operational in time for Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 or, more likely, in time for March Madness. If the bill does not pass, the next chance for a voter referendum would be November 2020.