Sports Betting on the Ballot in Maryland

Voters in the US state of Maryland are set to determine the future of sports betting in the state when the nation goes to the polls on November 3. 

Maryland is one of a trio of the state that will ask residents to vote on legalizing sports betting, along with South Dakota and Louisiana, although in all three cases, it is likely that the launch of sports betting will be somewhat delayed pending action from the state legislatures. 

Focus on Education

The proposition before Maryland voters will frame sports betting in the context of helping to boost the state’s education funding, mentioned explicitly in the question on the ballot:

“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?”

Voters in the state have been bombarded with debate and lobbying on the issue, thanks partly due to the influence of sports betting companies FanDuel and DraftKings, which have both put their financial resources behind the Vote Yes campaign since it was launched back in the summer. 

Long Road Ahead

Although betting companies and many politicians in the state are hopeful that residents will give the go-ahead to sports betting in Maryland, there remains a long road to travel before the market can be launched, as the referendum question provides no detail on the specifics of how such a sector would operate. That means legislation and regulation will still be required, and given the pace that the issue has moved at so far, it is likely that it could take several months. 

The precise shape of those sports betting rules is yet to be determined. Some opinions have suggested that the Maryland lawmakers could take the chance to start with a clean slate and design their own approach to sports betting, rather than copying the model of other states. The proposals of Senator Craig Zucker, whose original sports betting bill eventually led to the referendum, are also likely to be considered as a starting point for legislation. 

It is also likely that mobile sports betting will form part of any legalization process. A number of mobile sportsbooks already have a Maryland presence due to agreements on market access or through casino ownership, and of the neighboring states, only Delaware does not currently offer mobile betting. 

High Stakes for Maryland

The sports betting stakes for Maryland are high. Currently, sports betting fans in the state have the opportunity to bet legally on their favorite sports in almost all of the neighboring states. Betting on sport is legal in Delaware, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, while Virginia is due to launch its sports betting market in January next year. 

Zucker and other pro-sports betting lawmakers in the state have pointed out that this is not simply a matter of convenience for Maryland residents. The state is missing out on substantial potential sources of revenue through sports betting.

The good news for sports betting proponents is that opinion polls have suggested a majority of voters are in favor of a Yes vote, and that support could also be influenced by football concerns. Currently, the Washington NFL franchise plays its home games at FedEx Field in Landover, but the franchise has indicated an interest in obtaining its own sports betting license, and there are fears that the team could eventually relocate to Virginia, where such a license would be available. 

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