Maryland’s Sports Betting Expansion Bill Moves Forward

A bill to expand sports betting in Maryland has moved forward and will be voted on by the General Assembly next week.

General Assembly to Vote on HB0940 Next Week

On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved Maryland’s House Bill 940, which would expand the definition of gambling in the state. The proposal, sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County, could introduce a regulatory framework for sports wagering, as well as online fantasy games and betting in Maryland.

The bill now moves forward and will be voted on by the General Assembly next week. Should it be approved, land-based gambling operators throughout the state would automatically be granted in-person sports betting licenses. This would include large venues such as Maryland’s six casinos and three major professional sports stadiums. This is in addition to the state’s horse racing tracks, the Timonium fairgrounds, and a “riverboat” off-track wagering facility on the Potomac River.

Licensing Process

Businesses not eligible for an automatic license are not left in the dust, however, with 10 in-person licenses and 15 online betting licenses up for grabs. In total, this could bring the number of brick-and-mortar gambling operators to 22 for sports wagering and 15 avenues for iGaming and online sports betting.

At present, companies would be allowed to apply for in-person licenses, online licenses, or both. Winning one type of license does not guarantee winning another type of license. Some operators had called on regulators for a package deal wherein earning one license would automatically net the other one as well, as this is not included in the bill.

Western Maryland Republican Delegate Jason Buckel declared that he felt some degree of “heartburn” over the proposal’s lack of a guaranteed mobile license for smaller gambling businesses. “The financial viability really flows from the mobile license,” Buckel said.

Estimated $18 Billion in Tax Revenue

According to HB0940’s fiscal analysis, the bill would infuse about $18 million annually into the state’s coffers, through a 15% tax on sports gambling revenue. The tax rate is increased to 17.5% for all online betting businesses above the $5 million revenue threshold. A modest share of the tax revenue would be directed towards a new multi-billion-dollar education plan.

At the same time, the proposal would put a dent in the illegal sportsbook market in Maryland, due to the relatively low tax rates. The state currently hemorrhages roughly $2 billion in bets each year, the Lottery and Gaming Control Agency and Oxford Economics have found.

Legislators want to make sure that women- and minority-owned businesses also get a fair shot at securing operational licenses. This would be done by setting up a commission that will award licenses and could put provisions in place to amplify minority participation. Research has shown a distinct disadvantage for minorities and women in the gambling industry.

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