Maryland to Vote on Sports Betting in November

Photo by Chris Kendall on Unsplash

This November, the residents of Maryland will be able to vote on whether sports betting should be legalized. Both online and off, sports betting has been illegal in Maryland since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) was passed by the Supreme Court in 1992. PAPSA criminalized sports betting in every US state besides Nevada – but new regulations could be set to change that.

The vote will be held as a referendum, with Maryland residents asked: “Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

Gov. Larry Hogan passed the referendum legislation – as well as a bill to authorize the redevelopment of the Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore – in mid-March earlier this year. If the referendum shows that Maryland supports the legalization of sports betting, the regulations, licensing, and tax rates would still need to be confirmed.

From casinos to sports?

Although many parts of the world have outlawed casino gambling but legalized sports betting on the grounds that it counts as a ‘game of skill’, Maryland has had the opposite approach for around a decade. From Baltimore to Berlin, there are currently six major casinos in the state, after the first (Hollywood Casino Perryville) opened in 2010 – not to mention an array of online options such as DraftKings and for those now living outside the United States like Casino Winner. It is illegal for those living in the U.S. to place bets offshore.

Additionally, legislature, which was passed by the Maryland State Senate in 2012 expanded the array of slot machines and table games that were found in Maryland’s casinos. The law also sanctioned the building of a new casino in Prince George’s County, upon the condition that 5% of its revenue would go towards charitable causes (2.5% for an economic development fund and a further 2.5% to build a new hospital).

The legalization of sports betting would have a similar condition. As the referendum question states, a portion of the potential revenue from sports betting would go towards funding education throughout Maryland.

Sports betting: yes or no?

Neighboring states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia have all legalized sports betting already, while Virginia and Washington D.C are both planning to have the pastime fully operational by the end of 2020. But will Maryland vote to do the same?

Just two months before the vote, the outcome of the referendum seems uncertain. In February, a Maryland poll conducted by Goucher College in Baltimore revealed that 47% of residents would vote ‘yes’ to expanding gambling to include sports betting online, while 43% would vote ‘no’.

When the same poll asked whether Maryland residents would vote to allow sports betting at venues such as racetracks, casinos, or stadiums, 45% of people responded ‘yes’ and 49% responded ‘no.’

The percentages are close and, at the moment, it seems the vote could go either way – with the respondents who haven’t yet made their mind up ultimately having the final say as to whether Maryland residents could be placing bets on their favorite games in 2021.

What’s next?

Whatever the people of Maryland decide in November, the state still has a long way to go before its gambling legislature is both progressive and comprehensive. But if Gov. Larry Hogan continues to drive new laws, could we see a growing movement to license online casinos in the coming years?