It isn’t merely the U.S. Federal government that is getting back to work this month. State assemblies are also welcoming new members and launching into the business that’s in front of them.
In Maryland, that means sports betting is on the table. On Nov. 3rd, election day, voters in the Old Line State voted 67 percent in favor of Proposition 2, which would legalize Maryland sports betting across the state.
However, that was only the first step in what figures to be a long, drawn-out process until lawmakers hammer out all of the decisions, rules and regulations that need to be put into place before anyone can legally put down a wager in the state.
While sports betting on the whole was approved, not much else has been determined in terms of how it will work, and as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. The question posed with Proposition 2 was simply whether sports betting should be allowed in the state.
“My hope would be to have it up and running sometime over the summer,” Senator Craig Zucker, a big proponent of the legalization of sports betting, told pressboxonline.com. “I think the Maryland State Gaming and Lottery Commission can start working on [regulations] now.
“We figure out a good, fair, competitive sports betting bill that we pass. And then we’ll have the regs in place, and we just get it up and running as quick as possible.”
Some Groundwork Already Laid
State lawmakers were debating how the process of legalizing sports betting might work prior to the day that Maryland’s people spoke with their votes at the ballot box. It was Zucker, a Democrat representing Montgomery County, who introduced a sports wagering bill that passed unanimously in the Senate in March of 2020. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the debate was sidetracked and ended up becoming Proposition 2.
Nonetheless, Zucker is confident that those early discussions already have the sports betting movement well underway.
“We put a tremendous amount of work into the sports betting bill where we had work group meetings that were inclusive, where we had everyone at the table that wanted to be at the table,” Zucker explained. “It was nonpartisan, and that’s why it passed unanimously out of the Senate.
“I feel like that’ll be a good starting point.”
Much Work To Be Done
Still, there is much to be determined. Which entities will be permitted to apply for licenses to operate a sports betting site? Will it be limited to brick and mortar sports betting parlors, or will there be an online and mobile element? How much will the state receive in taxation from the betting revenue?
“If I were to put my money down, I would definitely bet that there would be an online presence on sports betting,” Zucker said. “I would be hard-pressed to find any scenario where we wouldn’t allow online sports betting.”
As to locales, it sounds like Maryland is looking to follow the traditional blueprint put into place by several other states that have legalized sports betting and grant licenses to established gaming houses such as casinos and racetracks.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of where we’re going with the legislation, but the language that was in the bill initially that was passed unanimously out of the Senate included your race tracks and your casinos, so I definitely think that your casinos and your race tracks would be part of the conversation, and I see an opportunity for them to get these sports books,” Zucker noted. “But obviously we’re going to have to have a broader conversation about who else should be included in that — like minority businesses — and figure out how we stay competitive with our neighboring states.”
The original Bill that was passed called for a 20 percent tax rate on sports betting revenue. However, looking to other states that have legalized sports betting, that rate is significantly high by comparison. Zucker admitted that while they don’t know for certain that 20 percent will be the number, the direction for those funds is already written in stone.
“I think the tax rate, licensees and all that is yet to be determined,” Zucker said. “I think that is going to be part of the conversation, but we’re going to be guaranteeing that the additional revenue that’s generated from sports betting goes directly into the education trust fund — the Maryland General Assembly lockbox for education.”