Maryland Sports Betting Framework Passes House, Heads to Senate

Bill would allow 15 mobile licenses and includes pro sports stadiums in the mix

The Maryland House on Thursday morning passed an amended version of a sports betting framework bill  that could ultimately allow for nearly 40 sports betting operator licenses. The House voted 130-9 to approve HB 940 and send it on to the Senate for consideration.

The bill is much expanded from when it was initially filed. At that time, it called for 10 stand-alone digital licenses and allowed for retail and mobile books at or tethered to existing casinos. But after listening to stakeholders, the House Ways and Means Committee amended it to be more inclusive.

HB 940 also calls for a 15% tax rate and sets the application fees for Class A licenses at $250,000 for tethered licensees and $500,000 for stand-alone mobile platforms. The renewal fees, valid for five years, are $50,000 and $100,000, respectively. Each brick-and-mortar casino would be entitled to one skin, or mobile partner.

Marylanders voted to approve sports betting via referendum last November.

Pro venues included, but with a twist

Among the physical locations that would be able to offer wagering are the state’s six existing casinos, the Washington Football Team’s FedEx Field, the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Stadium, the Baltimore Orioles’ Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Maryland State Fairgrounds, Pimlico and Laurel Park horse racetracks, and one off-track betting parlor. Pimlico hosts the Preakness Stakes, part of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

One unique stipulation for the pro sports venues and racetracks is that unlike in neighboring Washington, D.C., they would not be able to offer sports betting at all times. According to the amended version of the bill, the venues could only offer retail sports betting in ticketed areas — and those areas are only open during events — or when races are being held. That means the Orioles, for example, would only be able to offer in-person wagering for 81 days a year while the professional football teams would be even more limited with their fewer game dates.

The venues could also offer wagering when other events are staged at the facility, but there is a requirement that a minimum number of people be present — 2,000 for the racetracks and 10,000 for the sports venues — for events that are not considered “game days.” This would seem to indicate, for example, sports wagering would be available if a concert or monster truck event were being held on site.

Minority inclusion language beefed up

Among changes from other amendments:

Maryland lawmakers are in session until April 12. Should the Senate approve the bill, it will be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan for signature, and then the regulation and road to launch could start in earnest. The bill would take effect June 1, but there does not appear to be a timeline laid out for regulators to promulgate rules or get operators live.

In general, it can take between six months and a year for a state to approve rules and launch operators. Lawmakers in neighboring Virginia legalized sports betting on April 22, 2020, and FanDuel was the first to take a bet nine months later on Jan. 21. In Colorado, voters legalized in November 2019, and operators were taking bets by May 1, 2020. Given that Maryland has an existing gaming structure, it’s not unreasonable to predict that the first wagers could be placed late this year.