Maryland Online Sports Betting
Voters in Maryland approved sports betting in November 2020, but that is where things ended. Sports betting is still not legal in the state and operators are still waiting to apply for licenses. This is like someone asking you at a bbq if you want a hot dog and when you say yes, no one gives you a hot dog. So what’s with the delays? Like so many other things, sports betting is not yet legal in Maryland partly because of COVID.
Legalizing sports betting has been discussed by legislative leaders in Maryland since PASPA was overturned in 2018. It’s not a huge leap for the state, Maryland already has six casinos and is home to the second-largest horse racing industry in the country. Residents of the Old Line State are supportive of gambling and have consistently voted to expand gambling laws, most recently to include sports betting. That support so far hasn’t resulted in much meaningful legislative action, until now.
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Latest Action on Legalization
So if sports betting isn’t legal in Maryland yet, but voters approved the legalization of sports betting, what exactly did they approve? That is a good question. The answer is that over two-thirds of Maryland voters approved “the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.” This was a key step on the path to sports betting being legalized, because the Maryland constitution requires any expansion of gambling in the state to be approved by a public vote.
What the voters did not approve last November was a regulatory framework to go with legalized sports betting. Legislators in Annapolis were working on a sports betting bill in early 2020, but with time running out due to the emerging COVID threat, they decided to punt on anything besides a simple yes/no question presented to the voters. The plan was to come back to the issue and finish hashing out a regulatory framework in 2021 if voters approved the expansion of sports betting in the state.
With the public vote secured, the hard work now begins. Since the ballot initiative did not include any specific regulatory framework for sports betting aside from naming the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission as the regulator, the legislature still has to pass a bill that creates such a framework. Almost everything else, including who is allowed to apply for licenses, will be decided by the legislature.
In February 2021, Representative Adrienne Jones, the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, introduced legislation that would provide the necessary framework to implement legalized sports betting in the state. The bill, HR 940, is important not only because it was introduced by the Speaker, the most influential legislator in the state, but also because it outlines what likely will and won’t be included in any final legislative plan signed into law by the Governor. Let’s go over what is in and out of the Speaker’s bill:
Casinos – All six of Maryland’s casinos are eligible to apply for a sports betting license.
Racetracks – All of the horse racing tracks in Maryland are eligible to apply for a sports betting license.
Sports teams – Sports teams in the state are eligible to have sports betting kiosks at their stadiums (open only on game days).
Remote registration – In-person registration is not required for anyone signing up for a new online/mobile account.
Encouraging women and minorities to get involved in sports betting – The legislation explicitly says that the approved regulatory structure must “maximize the ability of minority and women-owned businesses to participate in the sports wagering industry.”
Mobile sports betting operators – Under the legislation, state regulators are authorized to issue up to 10 licenses to mobile operators. This is good news for operators who don’t have a deal lined up with an existing casino or racetrack. It is also good news for bettors in Maryland, who will likely have a robust, competitive marketplace to look forward to.
Education in Maryland – Revenue generated by legalizing sports betting will go to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund, a dedicated fund to support educational opportunities in the state.
Sports betting coming to Maryland soon – This new legislation is good news and definite progress, but even if the bill is passed within a few months, the regulatory process could take several more months to complete. Sports betting before summer seems out of reach, and fall is a more realistic outcome.
Other states having a monopoly on legal betting options for Marylanders – The ballot approval and pending legislation are bad news for Delaware; Pennsylvania; Virginia; Washington, DC; and West Virginia. Every state/district bordering Maryland currently offers legal online sports betting, and the operators there are probably the only ones unhappy with the possibility of online betting coming to the state.
Low taxes – The proposed tax rate for online operators is 15 percent for the first $5 million and 17.5 percent thereafter. Retail operators have a straight 15 percent tax. This is on the higher end of state tax rates on sports betting, but still far below Pennsylvania’s 36 percent tax. The high-ish tax rate is unlikely to deter operators from entering the state, however.
In-person betting offered at racetracks when there is no live racing – Laurel Park and Pimlico are the two major horse tracks in Maryland. They both offer live racing throughout the year but are also open almost every day, offering in-person simulcast betting. Not being able to offer sports betting at their facility may be frustrating for them, but with the explosion of online gaming, the financial implications are likely limited if they end up with a mobile skin.
In-person betting offered at sports stadiums when there is no game being played that day – Similar to horse tracks, sports betting can be offered at pro sports stadiums in the state, but only on the day of the event. So you can potentially bet on the Orioles at a kiosk at Camden Yards during the game, but you can’t go there to bet when the team is on the road.
Potential Sportsbook Operators Coming to Maryland
Sports betting may not be live in Maryland yet, but it is reasonable to say that it will be available sometime in late 2021 or 2022. There are several operators who already have connections in the state and more that are eager to compete for the many customers who currently bet offshore or in other states.
|Online Sportsbook||Physical Casino||Company|
|BetMGM (estimate)||MGM National Harbor||MGM|
|Barstool Sportsbook (estimate)||Hollywood Casino Perryville||Penn National|
|TwinSpires (estimate)||Ocean Downs||Churchill Downs, Inc.|
|William Hill/Caesars (estimate)||Horseshoe Casino||Caesars Entertainment|
|PointsBet (estimate)||Rocky Gap Casino Resort||Golden Entertainment|
|TBD||Live! Casino and Hotel||Cordish Companies|
|TBD||Timonium OTB at Maryland State Fairgrounds||Maryland State Fair|
|TBD||Laurel Park||Stronach Group|
|TBD||Pimlico Race Course||Stronach Group|
|TBD||Rosecroft Raceway||Stronach Group|
|TBD||Fair Hill Fairground||Fair Hill Races|
BetMGM – MGM National Harbor
If odds on BetMGM coming to Maryland were offered, they would be at least -10000. MGM National Harbor is the most popular and well-known casino in the state, operating just a few miles from downtown Washington, DC and across the Wilson Bridge from Virginia. The casino, which cost over $1 billion to build, already attracts millions of visitors each year (or did, anyway, pre-COVID), being a short drive away from DC and Virginia and within walking distance of the enormous Gaylord National Harbor convention center. A sportsbook and online betting “skin” is a natural extension of the existing casino and something locals and investors have been counting on since the facility was completed in 2016.
William Hill/Caesars – Horseshoe Casino
The Horseshoe Casino is located just south of downtown Baltimore, within walking distance of the Ravens’ stadium. Horseshoe is an iconic casino brand now owned by Caesars Entertainment. Caesars just completed a purchase of global sports betting operator William Hill, which operates in many states, including New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia, and Iowa. It also opened the first sports book inside a professional sports facility, located at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, just 45 minutes straight down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from the Horseshoe.
William Hill is a strong brand and could enter the Maryland market through its partnership with Caesars. That said, Caesars does have its own sports betting app and may choose to use it in Maryland, in which case William Hill could potentially partner with a different licensed operator or apply for a mobile license. Either way, it is likely that William Hill will be available to Maryland bettors when sports betting goes live in the state.
TwinSpires/Churchill Downs Inc. – Ocean Downs
Ocean Downs opened as a harness track in 1949. It has been part of the Ocean City, Maryland community for decades. Now the track is more of a casino than anything else, but live racing is still offered there during the year. Ocean Downs is owned by Churchill Downs, Inc., which owns many horse tracks across the country. Many of those tracks also have casinos, and many of those casinos have become mobile sports betting operators. See how this all fits together? Since Ocean Downs is authorized to have a sports betting license under the pending legislation, it stands to reason that TwinSpires, the Churchill Downs mobile brand being introduced in several states, will also come to Maryland.
Barstool Sportsbook – Hollywood Casino Perryville
Hollywood Casino Perryville is located between Baltimore and Philadelphia right off I-95. This location made it a popular destination back in 2010 when it opened as the first casino in Maryland and one of the only casinos in the entire mid-Atlantic region outside of Atlantic City. Times have changed, and now there are many, many more gambling options for the millions of residents in the area between Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Because of the burgeoning competition, online sports betting in Maryland is likely a welcome development for Penn National, owner of Hollywood Casinos. Of course, Penn National also has a large stake in Barstool Sports, which has taken the sports betting world by storm after launching Barstool Sportsbook in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Penn National is now using the Barstool brand in its numerous properties. It would be a surprise if Barstool Sportsbook doesn’t bring its raucous show to Maryland when sports betting is legalized in the state.
PointsBet – Rocky Gap Casino Resort
You may not realize it, but Maryland is about 250 miles wide (east to west). It extends from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the mountains of West Virginia. Some parts of western Maryland are only a few miles long (north to south). Its unusual shape in the western region is the result of mountainous terrain and long-ago territorial disputes. Rocky Gap State Park is located in that mountainous region, a lovely area that randomly includes a casino on state park land.
The Rocky Gap Casino Resort was developed to help improve the local economy and bring additional visitors to the area. The plan worked, and now the casino, owned by Golden Entertainment, is a popular destination. Golden Entertainment, as you may have guessed, is a large casino company that has a partnership with a sports betting operator. PointsBet, said operator, is Australian-based and has had a great deal of success in several states, including New Jersey, Iowa, Colorado, and Indiana. Since Golden Entertainment will likely be issued a sports betting license, PointsBet is a good bet to enter the Maryland market when sports betting is legalized in the state.
Other operators will enter the market if state regulators end up issuing 10 mobile licenses. The above operators are the most likely to go live in Maryland because of their connections to existing casinos/racetracks in the state, but the companies below could make an appearance too. Whoever ends up in the state, the big winner will be Maryland bettors, who will (eventually) have multiple betting options in a competitive marketplace and won’t have to go to a neighboring state to legally place their wagers.
Types of Bets Offered
The pending legislation authorizes the following types of bets
- Exchange wagering
- In-game wagering
- In-play bets
- Prop bets
- Straight bets
History of Gambling in Maryland
You probably know that the Preakness Stakes is held each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. It is the biggest sporting event on the East Coast, attracting well over 100,000 people each year, many of whom are horse racing fans but many more of whom are there to enjoy the infield festivities. These include rock concerts and long lines for refreshments (the Black Eyed Susan is the official cocktail of the Preakness).
What you may not know is that Maryland has a long, storied history of horse racing and has the second largest horse racing industry in the country, behind only Kentucky. There are two major horse tracks in the state, Pimlico and Laurel Park, but there have been others throughout the years. Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs used to attract large crowds to their harness races; now they are more known for simulcast betting and casino games.
If you visit any of the tracks, you can quickly imagine the massive grandstands being filled with excited bettors decades ago. Leaders of the horse racing industry in the state understand the need to innovate in order to survive, so they have excitedly pushed for legalized casino and sports betting to come to the tracks in order to preserve racing in the state. Under the pending legislation the horse tracks would qualify for a sports betting license and could also offer in-person betting on live racing days.
Like many states, not long ago Maryland used to only have horse racing as an available option for gambling. In fact, there were few casinos anywhere on the east coast outside of Atlantic City. As recently as the early-2000s, gambling was very limited in most states. Not anymore! Casinos are seemingly everywhere now, and Maryland voters decided in 2008 to bring casino gambling to their state. There are currently six casinos operating in Maryland, all of which qualify for a sports betting license under the pending legislation.
When is sports betting coming to Maryland?
Great question. To recap, sports betting was legalized by Maryland voters in 2020 in an overwhelming vote. The regulatory framework must be agreed upon by legislators in the form of legislation signed into law by the Governor. The Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates introduced such legislation in February 2021. An agreement must be reached before the April 12 scheduled adjournment date or everyone will have to wait until 2022 when the General Assembly meets again.
What if an agreement is reached in 2021?
Assuming legislative leaders are able to agree on a regulatory framework and pass the required legislation before April 2021, the state Lottery and Gaming Control Commission will finalize the rules based on the approved legislation and will issue licenses to qualified sports betting operators who apply. This isn’t likely to happen quickly. Rules generally take several months to finalize, even in normal times. Add COVID-related work challenges and we shouldn’t expect the rules to be finished before fall. Even that would be an aggressive timeline. But the good news is that if the legislation passes this year, sports betting will definitely be coming to Maryland sometime in 2021 or early 2022 because the people already voted to approve it.
What sports will I be able to bet on?
How about all of them? All the major professional and college sports in the United States, anyway, will definitely be available to bet on. Many international sports are also offered by the major sports betting operators in other states. Cricket, rugby, Australian Rules Football, and even darts are offered on FanDuel and other major sports betting sites. Whatever your sport, you will be able to bet on it as part of the competitive marketplace we expect in Maryland.
How do I know my deposits will be safe and my money will be accessible?
Sometimes life happens and you need to withdraw some of your bankroll to pay for an unexpected expense. Rest assured, your account will be secure and your money will be available for withdrawal upon operator approval. The regulatory framework discussed earlier will include safeguards for customer deposits. All sportsbooks are regulated by the states in which they operate. These regulations include clear language on how customer funds are safeguarded and what options are available for withdrawal. Your money will be safe and secure in a legal, regulated sportsbook operating in Maryland.
How will I be able to deposit and withdraw funds?
The exact methods for deposits and withdrawals will be determined by the state regulator, but most states allow for transactions to be done by credit card, debit card, ACH transfers, Play+ branded prepaid cards, cash at casino cages, and online payment processors like PayPal. These options should be available for both withdrawals and deposits.