Legalized Sports Betting Is Coming to Maryland

Maryland has a long history of gambling. The “Free State”, known as such for abolishing slavery in November 1864, is famous in sports betting circles for its rich horse racing pedigree.

The Preakness Stakes is one of the most famous thoroughbred horse races in the world. It takes place every year on the third Saturday in May at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland and has done since 1873.

Part of the Triple Crown of races, the Preakness Stakes’ purse weighed in at $1,000 back in 1873. It now carries a gargantuan purse of $1,500,000.

There are six Maryland Casinos dotted around the state. Hollywood Casino Perryville was the first casino opened in Maryland. It opened its doors to the gambling-loving public in September 2010. Ocean Downs, Maryland Live!, Rocky Gap Lodge & Resort, Horseshoe Baltimore, and MGM National Harbor followed in its footsteps. 

It is inside these six casinos where Maryland sports betting will take place.

Maryland Takes Steps to Legalize Sports Betting

Maryland became one of the first U.S. states to take steps to legalize sports betting. Lawmakers created the Senate Bill 58 towards the end of 2019. 

Senator Chris West is the man who made the proposal and set out the framework for sports betting in the state of Maryland. West’s sports betting bill shows public education would be the main beneficiary of the potentially huge tax revenues created by legalizing sports betting.

“University of Maryland, College Park.” bycarmichaellibrary is licensed underCC BY 2.0 

Gambling is heavily taxed in Maryland. The state retains a whopping 67% of all revenue generated by slot machines, which is one of the highest percentages in the United States. The tax revenue derived from Maryland gambling is distributed as follows:

  • 49.25% – Maryland Education Trust Fund
  • 33% – Video lottery terminals facility operators
  • 7% – Horse race purse account (up to $100 million annually)
  • 5.5% – Local impact grants
  • 2% – Maryland Lottery, partially financing regulation costs
  • 1.75% – Race track facilities renewal account (up to $40 million per year)
  • 1.5% – Small minority and women-owned businesses

The summary of West’s Senate Bill 58 shows the State Lottery, which has been in place since 1973 and has revenues approaching $2 billion, would be responsible for running Maryland’s sports betting.

“Providing that the General Assembly may authorize, by law, the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to issue certain sports wagering licenses; providing that a license may be issued only to the holder of a video lottery operation license or a license for thoroughbred racing or harness racing; declaring the intent of the General Assembly that State revenues generated by the proposed sports wagering be used for dedicated purposes including public education; submitting the Act to a referendum of the qualified voters of the State; etc.”

When Will Sports Betting Arrive in Maryland?

A hearing for Senate Bill 58 was scheduled for January 20, 2020 but it appears that never happened, possibly due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is still a chance that the bill finds its way to the election ballot in November 2020. This gives Maryland residents the final say on whether or not to legalize sports betting in the state.

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic could work in Maryland’s favor as all U.S. states are looking to raise more revenue during these unprecedented times.

Only a simply majority is needed to approve the bill, making the passing of the bill more likely. If passed, sports betting would become fully legal on the 30th day following the vote; November 30th, 2020 in this case.

It is highly likely Maryland will follow in the footsteps of other U.S. states that have legal sports betting. That is brick-and-mortar casinos will be the hub for sports betting activity.

All of Maryland’s six casinos should apply for a sports betting licence, they would be crazy not to. Maryland Live! is already taking steps by partnering with FanDuel for its sports betting operations.

There is a lot of work still to do even if the Senate Bill 58 is passed. Lawmakers will need to decide which sports Maryland residents can gamble on, such as betting on school and college teams, for example. They also need to decide whether to allow online gambling or not. Following the success of online gambling in other states, New Jersey in particular, it would be a major surprise if Maryland didn’t offer internet gambling if and when the Senate Bill 58 passes.

All these hurdles will take weeks, if not months, to overcome. That means Maryland gamblers are looking at legal sports betting sometime in early 2021. Until then, there are options available to them, including placing wagers on sports betting sites that are based offshore away. Established, trusted companies including Bovada and BetOnline offer their vibrant online sportsbooks to all American customers.

Featured Image: Maryland GovPics

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