On March 15, 2018, the lower chamber of the Maryland State Legislature, the House of Delegates, passed legislation that could legalize sports betting in Maryland. An overwhelming number of state legislatures, 124 to 14, voted to pass bill HB1014. HB1014 will now move onto the upper chamber of the Maryland State Legislature, the Maryland State Senate, specifically the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee. If HB1014 passes the Maryland State Senate, it then becomes subject to a voter referendum.
Supporters of HB1014 say sports gambling in Maryland could bring an estimated $33 million in gaming revenue to the state. HB1014 was designed so that 80 percent of the revenue received from licensing fees — $250,000 per facility — would go directly to the state’s education trust fund. Casinos and racetracks also support the bill, “[m]ost neighboring states have passed legislation or plan to approve similar legislation,” said Sal Sanatra, Maryland Jockey Club President, in his testimony before the of House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee. “We feel to be competitive with those other venues, we’d like to have it. It’s a natural fit.” Maryland becomes one of 15 other states that have recently introduced legislation that would legalize sports betting. As we have previously reported, MLB and the NBA have supported legislation in other states similar to HB1014. However, even though the NBA and the MLB have lobbied that each professional league should receive a one percent fee every time a bet is made on one of its games, HB1014 does not include the one percent fee.
Opponents of HB1014 say sports betting could have negative effects on professional and college sports. Delegate Neil Parrott said, “[t]he bill is a little deceptive … [There] is the potential that [players] could throw the game or throw certain parts of the game in order to help their friends or themselves make money based on the betting. It would certainly take a lot of the purity out of the sport.” He continued, in Europe there is “micro betting” where people bet on individual plays, “[i]t’s very easy to throw the play … We’re so connected right now. It’s a very dangerous precedent.”
Regardless, if HB1014 passes the Maryland State Senate and is approved by a voter referendum, the bill is still contingent upon a U.S. Supreme Court case. As we have previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court is in the process of deciding a New Jersey case that deals with a 1992 federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which effectively outlawed sports betting nationwide. The Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue sometime this spring. Potentially, the Supreme Court could invalidate PASPA, which would open the door to federal and state laws permitting sports betting across the country. It is clear that the national trend is moving towards legalizing sports betting.