Maryland Passes Bill that Reduces Penalties for Illegal Betting, But No Legal Sports Betting This Year

Maryland Pushes Sports Gambling Debate to Next Session

When the Maryland Senate leadership put a stop to all new amendments in March, any hope for the state adopting sports betting in time for 2020 crashed to the ground.

With the move, the state’s legislators were stymied from getting the resolution out of committee and onto the floor for debate.

“We made some progress, but right now, the general feeling is that there is some debate (left to do),” said Delegate Eric Ebersole.

“(There are concerns that) this particular expansion of gambling has to be done through a constitutional amendment.”

So with the legislature timid about introducing the measure to voters in November, the sports betting bill died on the vine, much to the frustration of the writers of HB 963.

“The answer is we’re not getting an answer,” Ebersole continued.

“The attorney general doesn’t have an answer. One of the vehicles we have is the lottery and the thought was maybe, but people here thought it was end run.”

“The feeling is the workaround is really not legit, so we’ll have to do a referendum,” Ebersole concluded.

With sports betting not likely before 2021, the bigger question remains if online betting will be included in the bill.

With the success of online gaming in New Jersey, states that have resisted using app-based online wagering have struggled to generate revenue.

Ebersole believes that online betting is still viable, but even he doesn’t know where the measure heads from here.

“(Online gambling) is still on the table, but not determined,” Ebersole said.

“We didn’t spend too much time on it, because we understand that there has to be a referendum.”

Although there doesn’t seem to be much resistant from Maryland legislators, the sports betting bill still did not receive enough support to pass for 2020.

Delegates like Nino Mangione believes that next year will see the passing of a referendum by voters.

“I think this is likely something that will be figured out next year,” Mangione said.

“We’re at the end here, only a couple of days left … if it goes to a referendum, and I do think the voters will go for it, then the question is how will we administer it.”

What Did Maryland Do to Help the Illegal Bookmakers?

With new legislation passed in January, Maryland lawmakers followed through on a three-year promise to update their laws against illegal gambling.

Under the new bill, illegal gambling will now cause a fine in Maryland rather than a charge that brought possible jail time.

Fines for players would be capped at anywhere from $500 to $1000. Bookmakers will see their fines capped at $5000.

But bookies caught running an illegal gambling ring could still face a criminal misdemeanor with a possible six-month prison sentence.

Also eliminated from past statues is the ability of the state to seize assets from illegal bettors and bookmakers.

Legislators who sponsored the alteration of the old sports betting statutes called the punishment demanded by the outdated laws “draconian.”

“These crimes of gambling are not enforced evenly,” Delegate David Moon said.

“I have never heard of a single person being brought [to court] for their $1 NCAA bracket, but you do see residents in urban areas brought up for doing practically the same thing, except with dice.”

With the changing landscape of sports betting in the United States, more states will follow Maryland’s lead and adopt updated and more lenient punishments for illegal gambling.