A bill to allow legal sports betting in Maryland will head to Governor Larry Hogan after passing both of the state’s legislative houses.
Senate Bill 4 – introduced by Craig Zucker – was approved on Tuesday (17 March) by the state House of Representatives after new amendments from the House Committee on Ways and Means were added to the bill.
The House then voted 129-3 for the bill’s passage and the amended version was then passed by the Senate unanimously yesterday. An earlier version of the bill was also approved unanimously by the Senate on 11 March.
The House Committee’s amendments set the question for an upcoming referendum on the bill if it receives gubernatorial assent. The question would read: “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?”
Maryland’s legislature was forced to act quickly in order to pass the bill, as it was adjourned three weeks early due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
As a result, the bill passed all three readings in the House on the same day, after legislators voted to suspend typical procedure requiring readings on different days.
The Senate then passed the bill on the final day of the legislative session.
The bill sets a $2.5m license fee, plus an annual $250,000 renewal fee and a 20% tax rate. 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.
The bill was then amended on 6 March by Senate Committee for Budget and Taxation committee members Guy Guzzone, Thomas Miller, Jr, Nancy King and Cory McCray as well as Pamela Beidle and Chris West.
These amendments allow for sports betting at three racetracks – Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and Maryland State Fairgrounds – and, “a stadium located in Prince George’s county that is used primarily for professional football,” referring to the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field.
The amendment also requires that “certain applicants and licensees are subject to certain minority business participation goals”.