he Maryland House of Delegates approved an amended sports betting bill without opposition Tuesday. After an initial hearing on HB 940 made it clear many local businesses wanted in on sports betting, the House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill Wednesday to include additional licenses.
HB 940 is awaiting a vote on the House floor before moving to the Senate, which could come as early as this week, as reported by Action Network. If passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law, eligible Maryland bettors would be able to wager from anywhere within state lines. Maryland casinos, horse tracks, professional sports stadiums and certain small businesses would have retail and potentially online license eligibility.
There are now 37 proposed sports betting licenses available under the legislation from 23 previously. That includes as many as 15 statewide mobile licenses, which are projected to account for the vast majority of Maryland betting handle. Also, the bill automatically grants 12 retail betting licenses to the state’s six casinos; Stronach Group, owner of Laurel Park Racecourse and Pimlico Race Course pari-mutuel horse tracks; the Maryland State Fairgrounds; an off-track betting facility on the Potomac River. The state’s three major professional sports venues are also eligible. Maryland could be the third jurisdiction to approve in-stadium sportsbooks after Washington D.C. and Illinois. Arizona and New York are also considering in-stadium sportsbook legislation.
Other business entities could apply for one of 10 additional retail licenses. All of the aforementioned groups are eligible to apply for one of the 15 online licenses.
Several sportsbooks have existing relationships with at least one of the casinos, including BetMGM, William Hill, FanDuel and Barstool Sportsbook. These and other top operators such as DraftKings, PointsBet and FOX Bet will also likely seek online sports betting partnership deals.
Democratic House Speaker Adrienne Jones sponsors the sports betting bill, all but assuring it comes to a final floor vote in the near future. Once through the House, the bill will have to go through the committee process again in the Senate. The upper chamber has not introduced a competing proposal, meaning sports betting hopes depend on the House bill.
The Senate will likely tweak the bill in the coming weeks but it appears to be on a strong footing for a relatively quick passage. Party leaders in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, including Jones, as well as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan all support the bill. Voters’ two-to-one support for the 2020 ballot question further underscores the political imperative for legal Maryland sports betting.
Maryland’s 2021 legislative session ends next month. The sports betting proposal could land on Hogan’s desk shortly thereafter if identical versions of the bill pass both the House and Senate. The bill technically goes into effect June 1, but all individual retail and online sportsbook operators would still need state regulatory approval before accepting wagers. In a best-case scenario, Maryland sports betting could begin ahead of the 2021 football season.