Maryland: Sports Betting Referendum Vote Only the First Step

Maryland’s sports betting legalization looks like a confirmed reality two weeks before the November vote, having the financial backing from the industry and the support from Governor Hogan. Current polls suggest backers of sports wagering dominate by almost two to one the opposition.

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Maryland approved slot machines in 2008 and table games in 2012, and betting on sports is just another extension, claimed an industry lobbyist, pointing out the fact that the vote is happening as always along with the presidential elections to ensure a higher turnout. And besides, gaming is already in the state and people understand that and will be inclined to support it, more so when the money from it will go towards education, Sen.Craig Zucker added.

52% of likely voters will support sports betting legalization, Our Voice Maryland, a progressive nonprofit organization, found out in a poll conducted in September, while 29% will be against it. The question is how the people who said they would need more information to make up their mind, nearly 1 out of every 5 voters, would vote.

Maryland residents will have a chance to approve wagering on sports events in general, as the rest of the process lies within legislators, who will have to do a deep dive into the issue, hash out details and pass a bill through the General Assembly, a process which experience proved to be far from straightforward.

Sports Betting Legalization Bill

A policy disagreement was the reason for a similar bill that would have allowed betting at the state’s casinos, race tracks, fairgrounds in Timonium and the Washington Football Team’s stadium in Landover to essentially die in the House after it had passed easily through the Senate in March. The bill would have also allowed mobile sports betting through approved apps.

Legislators would still have to decide a plethora of details regarding sports betting, including whether gambling apps will be allowed, what sorts of events will be subject to wagering and will betting on college athletics be permitted, assuming the Referendum result will be positive.

Backers of sports betting have the financial backing from the two big industry boys, Boston-based DraftKings and Flutter-owned FanDuel, which pumped $2.5 million into the campaign Vote Yes on 2, to boost support ahead of the Referendum. The campaign report showed most of the money is spent on TV and radio ads and direct mail.

In their ads, the campaign focuses entirely on education, with only scant reference to gambling, a fact which is attacked by the opposition camp, whose representatives claim backers of the idea talk deliberately on school funding to hide what the referendum is all about.

Besides Maryland, 8 other states actively consider the legalization of sports betting, but most importantly, all of Maryland’s neighbors have already done that. And with technology advancements, the state is also falling behind, Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King fears, hoping lawmakers would be able to keep pace with the industry with whatever bill they approve.

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