Maryland sports betting bill heads to governor for approval

Maryland could be the next state to legalise some form of sports wagering in 2021.

A piece of legislation that would legalise sports betting in the state of Maryland has cleared the House of Representatives and will now be sent to the state’s governor Larry Hogan for final approval.

The bill, HB 940, was approved in the House of Representatives earlier this week by a vote of 122-16 after the Senate made several amendments to the legislation.

What’s covered in the bill?

The sports betting legislation includes detail of how the state’s betting market would be operated and includes provisions for online and land-based betting.

One of the amendments suggested by the Senate was an uncapped number of licenses in order to create a free market and promote growth in minority and female-owned businesses.

Class A licenses would be reserved for Maryland’s six casino facilities, three professional sports teams, and the Maryland Jockey Club.

The bill would award Class A-1 licenses to the NFL‘s Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team and MLB‘s Baltimore Orioles. There is also language to include any professional sports teams that Maryland may add in the future.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee initially called for unlimited Class B and mobile licenses but this was amended later on. Now, the legislation would allow for 60 mobile licenses and 30 Class B licenses.

These will be made available to Maryland State Fairgrounds, four off-track betting facilities, and two commercial bingo halls. The remaining Class B licenses will be made available to businesses with a physical location in the state. The 30 licenses will be awarded via a competitive bid process.

Class A and B license holders will also be able to apply for a mobile license to offer online sports wagering. 

The state is set to review the demand for sports betting licenses in December 2025.

The legislature also implemented an emergency bill provision that means as soon as the bill receives the governor’s signature, it will become law. This is because the state wants to get its sports betting market ready for the 2021 football season.

HB 940 also set a 15% tax rate for sports betting in the state/ According to the fiscal note attached to the legislation this could generate $17m and $19m annually between the 2022 and 2026 financial years.

The legislation also requires an appropriation of $3m to be awarded to historically Black colleges and universities in the state. Also, at least $10m from sports betting tax revenue will be put towards funding K-12 education.

The road to legal sports betting in Maryland

In November 2020, Maryland was one of three states where voters approved measures for legal sports betting.

In Maryland, 66.2% of voters were in favour of bringing legal sports wagering to the state. The measure also received support from high-ranking government officials including Governor Larry Hogan.

Although sports betting was approved in November, the legislature was not required to enable the legislation this year. However, the Senate chose to make the legislation an “Emergency bill” which would allow it to come into effect once signed.

If everything goes to plan, the state of Maryland could have legal sports betting by the end of the year.

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