Governor Hogan Signs Maryland Sports Betting into Law

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law on Tuesday a sports betting bill allowing both retail and online betting in the state. The executive signature comes over a month after Old Line State’s legislature passed HB 940 on April 12, the concluding day of the session. The General Assembly had treated it as an emergency bill in a bid to allow Maryland State Lottery to develop regulations to launch as early as the fall.

Of the 200 bills passed into law Tuesday, Hogan specifically mentioned HB 940, one of the most inclusive sports betting bills in the nation, in his intro statement.

The next step is to form a Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, which will be responsible for reviewing applications and awarding licenses. While the review process is expected to follow a straightforward process for the retail aspect, online licenses will be reviewed and given preference after a rigorous vetting process to businesses with significant minority/women participation.

What Happened on Tuesday?

Hogan, with Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones sitting beside him, signed 223 bills into law Tuesday. Jones said Tuesday that legalized sports betting in Maryland would give minorities and women a great opportunity to participate in the industry.

The regulated industry will allow Marylanders to place retail sports betting at casinos, race tracks, and professional sports facilities. Bars and restaurants could also get licenses to extend sports betting in Old Line State. State residents can also place legal wagers from the comfort of their homes or anywhere in the state on computers and mobile devices.

Who Can Apply for Maryland Sports Betting?

There are two categories-Class A and Class B- of sports betting facility licenses for retail operators. “Class A” includes Maryland’s six casinos, racetracks, and three pro sports arenas. The larger of those facilities will pay a $2 million application fee and the smaller of those will pay a $1 million application fee.

“Class B” includes seven designated businesses including the Timonium Fairgrounds, two bingo parlors, and OTBs. Additional 30 licenses will be awarded to other businesses such as bars and restaurants under either B-1 or B-2 sub-categories depending on their size.

Larger of those will be liable to pay a $250,000 application fee, while a $50,000 application fee is fixed for the smaller ones.

There’s only one category for mobile sports betting licenses, with 60 online licenses available against an application fee of $500,000.

Other Details of HB 940

The inclusive provisions of the Maryland sports betting bill designate a significant amount of money from license applications fee from the larger retail licensees (and other sources) to assist smaller retail applicants.

All operators will be levied at a uniform tax rate of 15%.

The law also portions out $1.5 million each for Bowie State University and Morgan State University to establish a Center for the Study of Data Analytics and Sports Gaming at each university.

In addition, HB 940 also entails provisions for self-exclusion from sports betting for those addicts who want to restrict their gambling habits, and for a ban on advertising aimed at minors.

How Have We Reached Here?

Maryland voters approved sports betting in last November’s referendum by a supermajority, fulfilling the state’s legal requirement to hold a referendum for a major expansion in gambling. Old Line State already allows casino gambling, horse racing (including OTBs), bingo, and the lottery.

Despite the voter’s approval, the General Assembly took its time to pass Maryland sports betting legislation this year. The delay was partly due to the pandemic-led distraction and partly due to some disparity between the two chambers. Senate passed the bill, 47-0, on the last day of the legislative session.

Senate preferred to keep an unlimited number of licenses. A last-minute agreement saw the upper chamber approve the bill on April 12. The House of Delegates concurred the Senate version shortly after, approving the amended bill with a 122-6 majority. The House had passed the original proposal on March 11, with a 130-9 majority.

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