The Maryland Senate committee unanimously approved an amended sports betting bill sent by the House of Delegates. The amended version of HB 940, which is far more inclusive than the House’s original proposal, was then sent to the full Senate. The bill now moves onto the third hearing in the upper chamber, before being sent back to the House for approval of the amendments made by the Senate ahead of a deadline tomorrow.

Maryland sports betting legislation this year followed the state voters’ approval of the industry during the November 2020 vote. After the voters’ nod, most of the legislative work – ranging from setting up the framework to formulating the regulatory body – was left to the legislature. According to Senator Craig Zucker, Maryland sports betting could be launched later this year.

What Changes Were Introduced by Senate Committee?

The Senate’s Budget & Taxation Committee’s key amendment into HB 940 is to expand Maryland sports betting’s scope to an unprecedented level by the national standard. The free-market approach led the Senate committee to keep certain categories of retail sportsbooks and the number of digital sportsbooks uncapped. The House would propose 37 licenses, including 12 Class A licenses for casinos, horse tracks, and stadiums, 15 licenses for mobile operators, and 10 Class B licenses for local businesses. Both mobile and Class B licenses were to be obtained through competitive bids.

The hammered version HB 940 that now goes to the full Senate has now four categories of retail licenses and one digital license category:

  • Class A-1: Professional sports facilities, racetracks, and video lottery terminal operators with more than 1,000 machines. They would pay a $2 million licensing fee, renewable with an additional $500,000 upon expiry.
  • Class A-2: A video lottery terminal operator with less than 1,000 machines. They would acquire a license after paying a $1 million fee with a $300,000 renewal fee.
  • Class B-1: For local businesses and includes a license fee of $250,000 and a $50,000 renewal fee.
  • Class B-2: Venues with less than 25 employees and $3 million in receipts. They would pay a license fee of $50,000, which would be renewable with a $10,000 fee upon expiry.
  • Mobile/Online: There would be no cap on mobile licenses, which could be acquired by paying a $500,000 initial fee, renewable with $100,000 upon expiry.

Senate Relaxes Sport Facility Limitations

In the original HB 940 that passed through the House, Maryland’s three sports teams – Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Baltimore Ravens (NFL), and Washington Football Team – could have a Class A license, but they could only accept wagers on game days with 10,000 people in ticketed areas. The Senate committee relaxes those restrictions, allowing for year-round sports betting operations. For now, the teams would only allow fans to exclusively use the partner sportsbook in the stadium. However, the Senate committee implemented a stipulation that if a sports facility pairs with a casino, it must be located in the same county.

While commenting on the more inclusive amendments, Zucker said, “We wanted to make sure everyone had an opportunity to have a skin in the game, with a chance to not only be a part of this but to grow, particularly when it comes to small minority- and women-owned businesses.”

The full Senate will consider the committee’s recommended changes, and then the bill returns to the House, from where it originated. The lower chamber will deliberate the Senatorial alterations. After a reconciliation, which is required for any bill before it lands at the governor’s desk, it could become law. The Maryland sports betting bill is currently identified as “emergency” legislation and seeks the finishing line as the session expires on April 12.

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