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Maryland Senators file competing sports betting bills


Two competing bills to authorize sports betting in Maryland have been introduced in the state senate.

While Senate Bill 58, introduced by senator Chris West, would only allow sports wagering licenses to be issued to video lottery or thoroughbred and harness horse racing licensees, the other bill – Craig Zucker’s Senate Bill 4 – would create an open application process.

Currently, six casinos hold video lottery licences in Maryland. These are MGM National Harbor, The Casino at Ocean Downs Racetrack,  Live Casino & Hotel in Hanover, Rocky Gap Casino Resort, Horseshoe Baltimore Casino and Hollywood Casino Perryville.

A further five racetracks – Laurel Park, Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Timonium Racecourse, Fair Hill Races in Elkton and Rosecroft raceway in Fort Washington – hold thoroughbred or harness racing licences alongside Ocean Downs.

West’s bill does not make any mention of license fees or tax rates, but does specify that all state revenue from sports betting shall be used for, “dedicated purposes including the funding of public education.” West’s bill also does not make any mention of online wagering.

Zucker’s bill, meanwhile, sets a $2.5m license fee, plus an annual $250,000 renewal fee. The bill also allows for online operators to offer sports wagering on behalf of an existing sports wagering licensee, provided they pay a license fee of at least $5,000 to do so.

As both bills would require an amendment to Article XIX of the Maryland constitution, they can only become law if a referendum to enact them is passed after they make it through the legislature and receive the governor’s approval. The referendum on either bill would be held on 3 November, 2020.

Under both bills, the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission would regulate gambling.

In February 2019, two Maryland lawmakers introduced House Bill 1132, which would allow for the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to conduct a sports wagering operation and would not require a referendum, but this bill did not see a vote.