With New Jersey’s date for oral arguments set for December 4 in its sports betting case against the leagues in the United States Supreme Court, the abstract notion of sports betting outside Nevada is taking shape as a real if not imminent possibility. While some states would move quickly to set up shop, a Maryland lawmaker and the Baltimore Sun are looking to take it slow.
Maryland is among more than a dozen states contemplating how and when to begin licensing sports betting operations in its casinos and beyond in the event that the high court strikes down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 1992 federal law that prohibits states from allowing sports betting.
Maryland Lawmaker and Baltimore Sun In No Rush on Sports Betting Legislation While Others Want to Move Without Delay
Said Maryland state delegate Frank Turner (D-Howard County) Vice-Chair of the ways and Means Committee, of passing sports betting legislation, via the Washington Business Journal:
“Whether or not we do it this year or next year, I don’t really think it makes that much difference. We were told that we got into the casino business late, and maybe we did, but I don’t think it’s affecting us that much because it’s doing very well now. I just don’t think it’s a critical issue that we have to act really quickly on.”
Not all Maryland lawmakers share that desire for a slow roll. “It’s something I would support,” said state senator Ed DeGrange (D-Anne Arundel County), who sits on the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight,. “I think we certainly don’t want to be left behind.”
CEO Joe Weinberg for the parent company of Maryland Live! Casino wants to see the Maryland legislature act expeditiously so the casino can hang lines as soon as possible. A decision from the Supreme Court is likely to come in the spring. Said Weinberg:
“It’s critical that we be able to stay at the forefront of what’s happening nationally in order to maintain our competitiveness, not only within the state but also to take on competitors in surrounding states as well. I think if we wait until after there’s 100 percent clarity at the federal level, we will be two or three years behind surrounding states.”
Currently a measure (HB-0989) is in committee that would establish a task force to study sports gaming what implementation of sports gaming in the state would look like. If passed, the bill would submit the question of whether to allow sports betting as a voter referendum in the next November general election (which might be 2018) if PASPA is repealed.
Meanwhile on Wednesday the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed urging caution. Here’s the bucket of cold water from the editors:
“The essential question lawmakers should ask is, what’s the benefit of rushing to allow sports betting? The answer appears to be: not much. As any dedicated sports fans can tell you (including those who bet on fantasy web sites like DraftKings or just do it for fun with friends), it’s a complex business. Setting odds, favorites, betting lines and other constantly evolving parameters is a sophisticated matter that the gaming industry well understands.
“Las Vegas is the center of the U.S. sports gaming world and has been for decades. Maryland won’t be running the show no matter what lawmakers do. There’s no real benefit to being first in line, only risks that the state will fail its regulatory responsibilities or strike a bad deal for taxpayers. This isn’t like bringing in Amazon’s headquarters or a new industry with exciting growth potential like off-shore wind or cyber-security. This is one case where what happens in Vegas really will stay in Vegas.
Clearly opinions are mixed. In addition to Maryland Live!, Caesars Entertainment opened the Horseshoe Casino in 2014 in Baltimore. And MGM opened doors to its $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort in National Harbor, Maryland in December 2016.
Both Caesars and MGM operate sportsbooks in Las Vegas alongside Nevada state regulators. That experience and relationship ought to make Maryland equally if not better positioned as other neighboring states (West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) to establish a framework and sports betting clientele without delay.
This is all still theoretical but the case is moving along as calls to pump the brakes grow louder, as well as lobbying in favor of swift action.