Sen. Chris West submitted proposed legislation with the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee on Tuesday, under which Maryland State Fairgrounds to open a retail and online sportsbook.
The bill would make Maryland the first among roughly two-dozen states with legal sports betting that required a license for a nonprofit. Its passage is contingent on separate legislation to regulate sports betting in the state.
If approved, Maryland State Fair officials would use all sports betting revenues for charitable purposes, the Action Network reports. Located in Baltimore County, the fairgrounds are about 15 miles north of downtown Baltimore city and 20 miles south of the Pennsylvania border.
West told the committee the Fairgrounds already operated the most lucrative off-track betting location in the state and that same facility would be used to house a retail sportsbook. It would be the only retail betting location in Baltimore County under his proposal.
“If there’s a determination to portion the sports gambling licenses throughout the state, it will be important to ensure that Baltimore County is not left out,” West said.
West’s bill is the first Senate proposal introduced in this legislative session that addresses the crucial framework for allocating sports betting licenses. A more comprehensive bill is set to be introduced shortly, but West’s early effort helps outline another potential stakeholder in what will be crucial negotiations surrounding eligible licensees.
Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved legal sports betting in a 2020 ballot referendum, but key issues such as tax rates and license holders must be approved by lawmakers before wagering can begin.
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the 2020 legislative efforts, including a more fleshed-out bill that would have answered many of these key issues backers in the General Assembly had hoped to approve in conjunction with the referendum. Elected officials working on the 2020 bill largely backed online and retail licenses for the state’s six commercial casinos and it seems nearly certain the 2021 follow-up bill will do the same.
Most casino license holders would seem to already have their affiliate sportsbook operator set. MGM, Penn National and Churchill Downs already own Maryland casinos while parent companies for Live! Casino and Hotel, Rock Gap Casino Resort and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore already have existing sportsbook deals with their properties in other states.