Maryland Online Sports Betting Passed: How It Happened, What Bettors Can Expect

Posted By Brant James on April 13, 2021 - Last Updated on April 30, 2021

Maryland has gone from being geographically surrounded by jurisdictions with legal sports betting to becoming the final piece of the Mid-Atlantic puzzle.

On Monday, the state Senate and House approved HB 940 in the final hours of their session. Maryland is a state of roughly six million residents, three Big Four pro sports franchises and, perhaps importantly, an adjacency to the sports betting ecosystems in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, DC. Maryland is the fourth jurisdiction to legalize this year.

Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign the bill.

How mobile sports betting in Maryland will work

Legal sports betting in Maryland will feature statewide mobile as well as retail options.

HB 940 will allow for around six physical casinos in Maryland, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, FedExField (Washington Football Team), Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Stadium (Ravens) to open sportsbooks year-round.

More than 60 online outlets – more than allowed in any other state – will be licensed despite concerns from some supporting legislators of over-saturating the market.

Because HB 940 was designated an “emergency bill,” it will go into effect immediately, meaning sports betting in Maryland could become a reality for the 2021 NFL season. It will all depend on how quickly regulations can be established and vendors licensed.

What sportsbooks will come to Maryland?

MGM already has a strong presence in the state with the National Harbor Casino near Virginia and the District of Columbia, so betting with the BetMGM Sportsbook brand would seem like a logical fit. Horseshoe Casino, located in Baltimore is owned by Caesars’ parent company Eldorado Resorts. Horseshoe properties in various other states have sportsbook deals with William Hill, FanDuel and others.

With so many licenses available and special provisions in the law for “online sports wagering operator(s),” expect the large national players such as DraftKings and BetRivers, which is a major player in Pennsylvania to cross the Mason-Dixon line.

How Maryland legalized sports betting

Voters approved sports betting in a state-wide referendum in November. HB 940 went through sizable amendments between the time it passed the House of Delegates to emerged from the Senate with a 47-0 vote. (The House approved the Senate amendments with a 122-16 vote).

The main Senate tweak was exploding the number of mobile licenses available to 60, which would make Maryland sports betting a test of what marketplaces – especially in smaller states – can handle. There figures to be competition and attrition aplenty, but lots of choices for Maryland sports bettors. The Senate had originally proposed an uncapped amount of licenses.

Maryland’s licensing stricture is divided into two designations

Class A: Maryland’s six casinos, the three pro sports venues, and the Maryland Jockey Club. These in-venue sportsbooks can open even when their team isn’t in season, as is the case in Virginia and Washington, DC.

Class B: Upwards of 60 untethered licenses, plus retail shops at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, four off-track betting locations and two commercial bingo halls. 

Sports betting revenue will be taxed at 15%, with at least $10 million earmarked for public education. There were also provisions in the law to benefit minority businesses and historically black colleges and universities.

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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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