Maryland Sports Betting Efforts Slow Off The Mark

Written By Juan Carlos Blanco on March 19, 2018 - Last Updated on March 26, 2018
Maryland Sports Betting

Once considered ahead of its time in legalizing a popular real-money gaming option, Maryland recently played catchup on regulating a somewhat similar activity. This time around, they stand to get a little something (or significantly more) in return.

Its House of Delegates passed sports betting legislation – H1014 — by a robust 124-14 margin on March 15. The bill cut an efficient swath through the chamber after its early February introduction. It authorizes sports-based wagering through the state’s horse racing tracks and casinos if the Supreme Court issues a ruling striking down the Professional Sports and Amateur Protection Act of 1992.

The bill does not presently contain any provision that requires the dreaded integrity/royalty fee be paid to the professional sports leagues.

Progress of Neighboring States Speeds Up Process

It’s the second state to pass a sports betting bill through a full chamber thus far in 2018. The other, West Virginia, eventually saw its legislation progress all the way to the finish line and become law on March 9. Maryland obviously still has a couple of steps to take before it reaches that milestone.

The brisk progress being made enables the state to make up for a bit of lost time. The following neighboring jurisdictions have already passed sports betting laws that are ready to go into effect upon a favorable SCOTUS decision in Murphy vs. NCAA:

  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • New Jersey

The relative proximity of all three is enough to warrant concern that a lack of action would essentially cede plenty of would-be gaming-based revenue to those states.

Once a Pioneer in DFS Legislation

Ironically, Maryland took much more of a pioneering tack approximately six years ago by expressly legalizing paid-entry fantasy sports, an activity that offered them zero tax revenue.

At the time, the industry already included a relatively nascent daily fantasy sports (DFS) sub-set. FanDuel had been in existence since 2009, while current industry leader DraftKings was just getting started the same year the law went into place. A handful of smaller operators such as Draftstreet had been in existence for several years at that point as well.

The 2012 law gave oversight control to the state’s comptroller’s office. It remained on the books in almost complete anonymity for several years and was initially passed without much fanfare.

The legal maelstrom that encompassed the DFS industry beginning in fall 2015 brought it back into the spotlight. The law’s applicability even came into question, with Maryland’s Attorney General’s office issuing an opinion that a voter referendum may have been necessary to pass the legislation in the first place.

The comptroller’s office ultimately clarified matters to an extent in early 2017 by enumerating a set of provisions for what constitutes lawful DFS activity.

Rapid Legislative Progression Explainable

What does Maryland’s surprisingly proactive stance on paid-entry fantasy sports more than a half-decade ago have to do with its sports betting legalization quest? It arguably could lead one to conclude that the state has a generally progressive mindset toward the issue of real-money gaming in general.

Theoretically, that’s one reason that explains the rapid progress of H1014. By that logic, one could also prognosticate that passage of the bill through the Senate – or advancement of a separate piece of legislation sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D) – is also likely.

However, as is often the case, money — or the prospect of it — is really the main impetus at play. State legislators have undoubtedly found plenty of motivation in a report from industry consulting firm Global Market Advisors that concluded the following with respect to how lucrative the Maryland sports betting marked could be by 2023:

  • Potential sports betting handle between $227.6 million and $2.8 billion.
  • Potential sports betting revenue between $13.7 million and $182.1 million.
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Juan Carlos Blanco

Juan Carlos Blanco has served as a freelance writer for a wide variety of online publications and websites, with an intensive focus on fantasy sports. Juan has provided analysis and comprehensive coverage of the MLB, NBA, NFL, CFL, AAF and AFL while also reporting on news and developments in the daily fantasy sports and online gaming industries.

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