As US Election Day Nears, Both Support & Controversy for Maryland Sports Wagering

Controversy for Maryland Sports Wagering

  • Besides deciding a next President, Maryland voters will cast an opinion on sports wagering
  • Like all US state wagering bills, the message comes with significant political support
  • A lobbyist group has thrown a bit of late controversy into the mix for potential passage

Deciding a US President will not be the only interesting issue to be decided for Marylanders in the upcoming November 3rd election.

Two members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee sit on opposite sides emphasizing their support for the initiative on the election day ballot that would legalize sports betting in Maryland.  The issue is focusing on highlighting potential economic gains and downplaying potential negative consequences.

As stated to the voters as Question 2 it states “Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

A vote for the stated referral would authorize the General Assembly to create guidelines for licensing and establishing rules for sports wagering. Voting against the referral would keep sports wagering illegal in the state for the time being. At present, Maryland has 15 licensed casinos with a history of voting for slot machines in 2008 and then table games in 2012.

Political Support

Like any other bill, building support has come from some influential political forces who have both introduced legislation and continued pushing for its path to voters saying Yes.

Senator Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) told MarylandReporter.com “I’m a supporter of Question 2, I think that it’s supposed to bring in about $20 million worth of revenue”.

Those sentiments were also echoed by Senator Johnny Ray Salling(R-Baltimore County), who is running for Congress in the Second District. “The good thing about this is it’s going to benefit our state for education, which we continue to need because of the lack of money for basic needs…old buildings, old schools…if we can get this financing it’s just more help through the state and it can literally be divided up through the counties to help that out.”

McCray and Salling also pointed out that resources are readily available for people who struggle with gambling addiction. “There are a number of programs that are out there in reference to sports betting,” McCray said. “It’s revenue that we’re leaving on the table. Other states have already started to move in this direction. We don’t want Maryland to move in an uncompetitive direction.”

In translation, that means the ancillary sports wagering revenue that has been developed over the past 12-24 for months for neighboring states New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and now Washington DC.

Controversial Bump

Some controversy has accompanied the road to passage for supporters as a few large gambling companies have spent more than $2 million trying to persuade Maryland voters to approve sports wagering, according to recent campaign finance reports.

It was mentioned according to a report last Friday that DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel, two online betting companies that stand to profit off sports wagering, have approximately $486,000 remaining of $2.75 million they have invested into a group called “Vote Yes on Question 2,”.

Most of the funding has gone into television, radio, and online advertising plus direct mail campaigns. The group’s account was started in July 2020 with $250K invested from DraftKings Sportsbook. In the past two months, DraftKings Sportsbook funded another $1M with FanDuel contributing $1.5M.

Timing has also caused onlookers as the state’s casinos and the Maryland Jockey Club have been offering free onsite advertising, social media, and mailings in favor of sports wagering in the name of “Fund Our Future”. The practice has taken place during the state’s busy Preakness period. According to the report filed, the group has contributed $32,300 to Fund Our Future but little has been spent.

As an example, the casinos have been making “in-kind” contributions, meaning they are offering work on behalf of the group at no cost. That has included advertising, media, and free signs at N/C for the Preakness event.

Approaching the question on the state’s ballot in approximately three weeks, it will now be up to the Maryland voters to decide.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

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.

Email: larry.gibbs@wsn.com