It’s very likely that Maryland will work to capitalize on sports betting in 2019. On December 20th, Governor Larry Hogan spoke about Maryland issues including legalizing sports betting. He said that he, the House Speaker, and the Senate President are optimistic about hammering out an agreement over sports betting during the 2019 session. He hopes that they can put through a measure that will expand legalized gaming in Maryland to include sports betting.
During an interview covering the upcoming 90-day legislative session, the governor said there are different legislative proposals around sports betting, but “between the House, the Senate and the administration this session, it is probably going to get negotiated out.”
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted to legalize sports gambling, which was the first jurisdiction to do so in that region.
In 1992 the federal government enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. It effectively banned sports betting in all states other than Nevada. New Jersey fought the law for several years, eventually taking it to the Supreme Court. In May of this year, the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in a landmark decision, leaving it up to the states to set their own laws on sports gambling. Since then, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, West Virginia, and now Washington D.C. have legalized the activity. All but the District have operating sportsbooks. Arkansas and New York are moving towards legalizing sports betting as well.
During the 2018 session, the General Assembly considered a bill that would have called for a voter referendum on sports gambling in advance of the Supreme Court’s decision in May, but it didn’t get past the Senate. If another, similar measure were to be passed in the upcoming session, the earliest that voters could make their decision would be in 2020.
A different form of legislation, one that would permit the state lottery to regulate sports betting, would negate the need for a voter referendum.
Currently, Maryland has racetracks, casinos, and lotteries. A poll carried out by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland discovered that a slight majority of Maryland voters support the expansion of gaming in the state to include sports betting. Fifty-three percent of registered voters said they would be in favor of legal gambling on professional sports, 37 percent were opposed, and 10 percent said they had no opinion.
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