Surrounded by bordering states experiencing sports wagering success in their initial phase, Maryland legislators have been further motivated toward acting.
The House Ways & Means Committee approved a sports betting bill last Friday that backers say would clear the way for more minority and female entrepreneurs to getting a foothold into the sports wagering sector.
The measure, House Bill 940, contains the important backing of House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County). A workgroup has been meeting regularly to discuss the issue and consider amendments with those amendments and the bill itself passing unanimously.
The expanded bill includes an additional 12 proposed licenses for casinos, major sports teams, and mobile apps. This increases the number of potential licenses from 25 to 37. Mobile sports apps could vie for 15 licenses, with 12 licenses targeted for casinos, professional sports teams, the Maryland State Fairgrounds, among others. Also, under the proposal, 10 licenses would be available for wagering sites not specifically tied to racing or casinos.
HB 940 is required to legalize sports betting in the Old Line State after Maryland voters approved legalization efforts last November. All wagering sites would enter the Maryland sports wagering market for the first time, which would be responsible to legalize, implement and regulate sports wagering and all fantasy sports betting in the state.
Provisions within HB 940 also allow for locally owned businesses and minority-owned businesses. Delegate Daryl Barnes (D-Prince George), head of the Legislative Black Caucus and member of the Ways & Means panel made comment on the issue:
Nowhere in the union has a sports bill been put together like we are doing here in the state of Maryland, which gives greater opportunity for minorities to participate.
Supporters of the bill are targeting approximately $20 million per year by taxing a portion of the proceeds from sports gambling companies, making a modest contribution to funding for public education.
A note attached to HB 940 reports that 85% of sports wagering facility proceeds would be appointed toward going to the licensee, with mobile sports betting licensees permitted to retain 85% from their first $5 million in gaming revenue and 82.5% of revenue over $5 million. The balance would go to the state.
Also, sports wagering licenses would be under the watch of the state Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program for a set period to enhance opportunities for minority businesses owned by women. State proceeds from the bill would be funneled to education and other specific needs through the state’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future program.
This increased version of the sports wagering bill, sponsored by House Speaker Jones and approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, would automatically grant licenses for in-person sports betting at the state’s six casinos, three major professional sports stadiums, thoroughbred horse racing tracks, the state fairgrounds in Timonium and a “riverboat” off-track betting facility on the Potomac River.
House debate on the bill could begin this week when the full body is next in session. Legislators are trying to decipher how to set up the new sports betting industry in Maryland, following the November 2020 ballot measure in which voters approved legalized sports betting with strong 67% support.
Current revenue projections for HB 940 could change while likely being amended during the next legislative session, which concludes in mid-April. The most positive news was the full committee approval last Friday. If all proceeds according to plan it is possible Maryland could see sports wagering begin by early 2022.
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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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