Voters in Maryland will decide on the future prospects for sports betting in the state at next month’s referendum, but two of the biggest sports betting operators in the country are leaving nothing to chance as they campaign for a Yes vote.
The referendum on Question 2 will ask voters to choose whether to legalize sports betting in the state, and there has been a long-running campaign to secure approval. According to reports, both FanDuel and DraftKings have invested heavily in the Yes campaign, contributing a combined $750,000 during the summer, part of which was used to produce a promotional video.
Maryland’s lack of progress on a sports betting bill this year was partly down to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the result was that legislation was further delayed and the decision put to voters. If the vote is a Yes, then legislators will work on the details of sports betting legalization next year.
The fact that there is no enabling legislation on the books has not stopped the Yes campaign from promising big bucks from the Maryland sports betting sector. According to some analysts, the sports betting industry in Maryland could produce $40 million in annual revenues for the state, and, as with other states that have moved to legalization, the majority of that would be used for education.
Another key plank of the Yes campaign is the claim that Maryland will be losing out on the potential tax revenue that all of the neighboring states are benefitting from. The state has been left behind by the sports betting revolution that has seen New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC move towards legalization.
The lack of enabling legislation has made it hard for both sides in the campaign to argue about what sports betting will look like in the state of Maryland. An original plan envisaged licenses going to the six casinos and two racetracks in the state, while the Washington NFL franchise had also shown an interest. Early proposals on the financial specifics also suggested a license cost of between $1.5 million and $2.5 million with the tax on sports betting revenue set at 20%.
It is likely that all six of the casinos in Maryland would strike deals with sportsbook operators. Some have already taken that step, including Maryland Live, which has partnered with FanDuel and William Hill, who have a deal with Horseshoe Baltimore. BetMGM and BetAmerica have also signed deals with local casinos, and Barstool Sportsbook is likely to link up with Hollywood Perryville, which has a link with the Barstool parent company, Penn National.
That would, in theory, leave only three licenses up for grabs, two of which will be through the racetracks in Maryland: Stronach and Maryland State Fairgrounds, with the other involving the Rocky Gap casino. That is unlikely to be sufficient to accommodate all of the eligible sportsbooks who would be interested in operating in the Maryland market, so even if the voters of the state opt for Yes at next month’s referendum, there is likely to be a lot of legal wrangling before sports betting goes live.
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