Maryland House of Delegates committee on Friday approved a proposal to legalize fantasy games and sports betting in the state.
The bill would allow 22 in-person locations for sports wagering and 15 options for online and mobile betting. The state could receive nearly $20 million per year by taxing a portion of the proceeds from sports gambling companies, making a modest contribution to funding for public education, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, the bill would automatically grant licenses for in-person sports betting at the state’s six casinos, three major professional sports stadiums, thoroughbred horse racing tracks, the state fairgrounds in Timonium and a “riverboat” off-track betting facility on the Potomac River.
Another 10 licenses for in-person betting would be open to applicants, and 15 licenses for online betting through websites and apps would be up for grabs. Companies could apply for in-person betting licenses, mobile licenses or both. Winning one type of license does not guarantee winning another type of license.
The number of licenses is an increase from the original version of the bill, which called for in-person licenses at the six casinos, five more in-person licenses, plus up to 10 licenses for online betting. During a public hearing on the bill, lawmakers heard from many in the industry who requested more licenses, both in-person and online. Some companies had pressed lawmakers to tie in-person licenses with mobile licenses, which was not included in the bill.
Del. Jason Buckel said not guaranteeing mobile licenses to the companies that get in-person licenses gave him some “heartburn.” Smaller, in-person locations might not make much money off sports betting without also having a mobile license, Buckel and others have said. “The financial viability really flows from the mobile license,” said Buckel.
Friday’s committee approval puts the bill on track to be debated by the full House this week. House debate on the bill could begin on Tuesday, when the full body is next in session. The Senate, meanwhile, has held work group meetings on the issue of sports betting, but no bill has been introduced in that chamber.
A key goal of lawmakers has been to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses have a chance at securing licenses and profiting from this gambling expansion. A commission that will be set up to award licenses will have the ability to put provisions in place to boost minority participation.
This is legally allowed because research has shown there is a disadvantage for minorities and women in the gambling industry. Companies also will be required to report on the women and minorities in their ownership group and among their employees.