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It seemed like a sure thing – receiving support to legalize sports wagering in Maryland and Tuesday’s election results confirmed it.
Voters within the state-approved sports betting (Question 2 on the MD ballot), and will further carry legalized wagering to the Mid-Atlantic area which includes Washington DC and Virginia who already have it in place. It was a popular and conclusive decision as voters approved the measure by a 2 to 1 margin.
Much of the focus now shifts to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Democrat-controlled General Assembly to decide the details of which companies could apply for licenses, how fans would place bets and how much of a cut the state would take. Gov. Hogan has expressed previous enthusiasm, endorsing the ballot issue as a valuable source for necessary state funding.
A nonpartisan analysis estimated that Maryland could bring in as much as $18.2 million per year from a combination of in-person and mobile betting on sports wagering, assuming the state would tax sports gambling revenue at a 20% level as it does for table games in the state’s casinos. Of that tax revenue, 19% would be allocated to education and 1% to the minority business enterprise program.
The debate over how to establish the sports betting industry will be informed by a “disparity study” to determine whether racial minorities or women face a disadvantage in participating in the gambling industry. Should the study find that is the case, lawmakers may need to include provisions in that underrepresented groups have a chance to also participate.
Gov. Hogan said early Wednesday:
Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses. This initiative builds on the 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.
Although no specific starting date has been given for sports wagering beginning in Maryland, potentially late Summer of 2021 seems a reasonable estimate. That would coincide with the kickoff of next year’s high sports wagering traffic football season along with the end of the Major League Baseball season as well.
Like many other state ballot measures that passed involving gaming on Tuesday, this measure had restrictions. In this case, it involved basically initiating sports wagering. State lawmakers will have to pass other details including establishing operators and tax rates when they return for the 2021 legislative session on January 13, 2021. Since there has been no prior Democrat/Republican conflict involving the issue, all details are likely to speed through with the backing of Gov. Hogan.
As for retail sportsbook locations, it would be assumed both popular racetracks, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course would be included on the Maryland landscape. Also, likely would be six casino locations within the state.
With online sports wagering dominant and further being bolstered by Covid-19, the issue of online wagering would also be a priority discussion for Maryland lawmakers. Adding to the mix the success for 2020 online wagering in nearby states Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in Washington DC.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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