Just two days after the General Assembly in neighboring Virginia shipped a legal sports betting bill to the governor’s desk, the Maryland Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would send the decision about legalizing sports wagering to the state’s voters. SB 4, which moved forward on a 47-0 vote, will now head to the House of Delegates.
Should the bill get through the House and onto the November ballot, and a majority of Maryland voters approve, it’s possible that Maryland could see the launch of licensed sportsbooks ahead of Virginia. Because Maryland already has an existing gaming infrastructure, including six retail casinos and a gaming control agency, the road from legal to live would likely be shorter than in Virginia, where the Virginia Lottery will be starting from scratch in terms of developing rules and regulations for both brick-and-mortar casinos and sports wagering.
Of course, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has not yet signed the bill into law. However, that is expected to come next week.
The Maryland bill would allow state-wide mobile and retail sports betting at the state’s six existing casinos, as well as at horse racetracks and a Washington Redskins facility, should the team decide to stay in Maryland. The bill would allow for betting on all collegiate sports while Virginia’s prohibits betting on Virginia-based college teams and prop bets on individual college athletes. The Maryland bill also calls for a higher tax rate — 20%, as compared to the 15% that Virginia approved. Another key difference is that the Virginia bills mandates the use of “official league data,” and the Maryland bill does not.
All Maryland border states have legal sports betting
State-wide mobile sports betting set to become legal in Virginia. (Some physical sportsbooks permitted, too).
The Senate just adopted the House sports betting bill (HB 896), which will now go to the desk of Governor Ralph Northrum. (@GovernorVA).
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) March 8, 2020
Maryland is surrounded by jurisdictions that have legalized sports betting, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, three of the first five states to have live legal sports betting in 2018. Washington, D.C. legalized sports betting more than a year ago and is in the regulatory and application process.
With regard to the Redskins, Virginia and Maryland have reportedly been courting the team as it seeks a new stadium. The team currently plays at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., but the lease expires after the 2027 season. The Redskins headquarters and practice facility are in Virginia, which includes a provision for the Redskins to build a stadium in Virginia and get a slice of the sports betting pie.
The Maryland bill would also allow for the Redskins organization to offer sports betting, both retail and mobile, but sets out a timeline, including submitting architectural drawings by July 1, 2022, which would be just 19 months after the November election. The bill sets a $2.5 million license fee and would require the Redskins to negotiate with labor organizations, hit minority business standards and sign a “community benefits” agreement with Prince George’s County.
Comparatively, Virginia’s bill appears less restrictive. It sets the license fee at $250,000, and would allow for the team to roll out mobile sports betting ahead of retail.
On Tuesday, there was no debate in the Maryland Senate before SB 4 passed. A hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee has already been set for March 19. The House has about a month to take action, as the General Assembly is set to adjourn April 8.