With 100% of Election Day results reported early on Wednesday morning, a referendum that asked voters to decide if they backed legal sports betting in Maryland led by a considerable margin. The referendum allows for statewide digital and retail sports betting. Five other states considered gaming-related initiatives Tuesday, and all passed.
As of 12:03 a.m. ET on Nov. 4, roughly 1.23 million voters selected “yes” on Question 2, a measure that will expand commercial gaming in the state to include sports gambling. Proponents of the measure led detractors by a nearly 2-to-1 margin with provisional ballots yet to be tallied, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Among votes counted, there were 635,923 votes against the referred law, representing about 34% of the total votes.
It could still be months before legal sports betting goes live in Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly must pass legislation to authorize sports betting and establish a regulatory framework for expanded gaming before consumers can legally wager on sports in the Old Line State. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in mid-January.
“Tonight’s overwhelming support of legalized sports betting in Maryland sends a clear message to the General Assembly, pass legislation and empower consumers the ability to legally bet on sports in 2021,” Slane Advisory Founder Sara Slane wrote to Sports Handle, in an email.
Ahead of Election Night, top sportsbooks expressed optimism that the measure would pass handily. One poll indicated that roughly 55%-60% supported the referendum, Cory Fox, vice president for government affairs at FanDuel, told WTOP News, a Washington D.C. radio network. Another poll conducted by Our Voice Maryland found that approximately 52% of respondents supported legal sports betting.
Several prominent sportsbooks contributed more than $2.75 million in lobbying efforts in favor of the measure, including approximately $500,000 from FanDuel. In addition, The Maryland Jockey Club joined a group of area casinos — Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Hollywood Casino Perryville and Maryland Live! Casino and Hotel – among a contingent that contributed $32,300 to a sports betting advocacy group called Fund Our Future.
Last spring, the General Assembly appeared on its way to ironing out the details of a sports wagering regulatory structure before progress for a framework stalled amid the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re confident they will continue that work expeditiously, with an eye towards ensuring an equitable distribution of sports wagering licenses,” Fox wrote in an email to Sports Handle.
.@SenatorZucker on Ballot Question 2: "It’s a pretty non-political, non-partisan issue that both parties agree is good for the state of Maryland in terms of capturing that lost revenue especially during this global pandemic." @CNSmd #ELECTION2020
— Ryan McFadden (@RMcFadden15) November 3, 2020
If sports betting is eventually legalized in Maryland, the state’s two main racetracks –- Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Laurel Park in Laurel –- may emerge as venues for retail sports betting. While in-stadium betting has yet to be addressed, two Baltimore pro sports venues, Camden Yards (MLB Baltimore Orioles) and M&T Bank Stadium (NFL Baltimore Ravens), are located blocks from Horseshoe Casino.
Legalized sports betting could also play a role in the Washington Football Team’s efforts to construct a new stadium. The franchise, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, has played home games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.., since 1997. The lease there expires in 2027, and owner Dan Snyder has been aggressively shopping for the best deal — which now could include the ability to host sports betting — for the team’s next chapter.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a two-term Republican, endorsed Question 2 in recent weeks. According to an analysis from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, the primary purpose of the measure will be for the funding of “public education” across the state.
“Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses,” Hogan said in a statement. “This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education. We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come.”
In early voting, 615,150 votes were cast on the “yes” option with 312,130 votes against the referred law, according to the State Election Board. Among absentee ballots, “yes” on Question 2 led by a margin of 540,838-290,051, results showed. More than 100,000 residents cast votes on the referendum on Election Day, with about 77% supporting the measure.
If Question 2 is passed, all three jurisdictions in the “DMV area,” — Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — could potentially accept legal sports wagers before the end of 2021. Retail and mobile sports betting are already live in D.C., and Virginia regulators are hoping to launch sports betting in early 2021.
Fox anticipates that sports betting will be live in Maryland by the start of the 2021 football season if legislation can be passed and regulations are crafted in an expeditious manner.
Slane, meanwhile, indicated that a competitive marketplace will ultimately benefit consumers in the DMV area.
“Maryland’s entrance into the sports betting industry completes the final piece of the DMV puzzle,” Slane said. “Consumers will have the flexibility to choose among one of the most competitive marketplaces in the country.”