The issue of whether or not to legalize sports betting in the state of Maryland will be left up to the voters. This comes after both the House and Senate feverishly worked to approve a bill just before the deadline.
The House spent the early part of this week making the necessary changes, and the Senate met on Wednesday to offer the final vote. The Senate unanimously approved the bill by a vote of 45-0, and the issue will now be on the ballot for residents to vote on in the election in November.
Senator Craig Zucker is the author of the sports betting bill that will go before the people of the state, but the newest version of the bill doesn’t look anything like the one that he drew up. Members of the House picked apart Bill S4 before ultimately voting to approve the bill and send it back to the Senate.
The House voted 129-3 to move the legislation forward before the Senate ultimately gave it the final vote of approval.
There was supposed to be plenty of discussion around the sports betting bill in the coming weeks, but the session is going to end almost three weeks early. Fear of the coronavirus spreading will send members of the House and Senate home early, and the sports betting bill still needed to be voted on.
The House went ahead and stripped out much of the language of the bill to leave the decision up to the voters in the state. If the bill does pass when voted on by the residents of the state, then both the House and Senate will have to work on another bill in the future to decide how sports betting will work within the state.
Lawmakers are hoping to use some tricky language to help get the referendum passed in November. The question on the ballot will ask voters if they wish to approve a sports betting referendum to raise revenue for state and local education.
There was hope that sports betting could be voted on and then launched by the end of 2020 if the referendum passed, but that won’t be the case now. If the referendum is passed, then lawmakers will not be able to meet and come up with a new bill until January 2021 at the earliest.
It is unclear what a new sports betting bill will look like in 2021, but we do have an idea of what was on the originally proposed bill. Sports betting would have been legalized at the four Maryland casinos that are currently in operation throughout the state.
Three racetracks in the state would have also been able to offer sports betting, and there was a chance that the Washington Redskins football stadium would be able to offer and take bets as well.
A new bill would more than likely be similar, but a lot of things can change in a span of 10 months.
The tax rate of the new sports betting industry would have been set at 20 percent. Nineteen percent of that money would be going towards education, while the other one percent would go into a minority business enterprise program.
Fees to own a sports betting license were set at $1.5-$2.5 million depending on the type of license that was applied for. Renewal fees were set at just 25 percent of the initial cost, and wouldn’t need to be renewed until five years.
The State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission will be in charge of reviewing the final bill before the industry is launched if passed by voters.