Maryland is one step closer to having legal sports gambling as Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law Tuesday a bill that establishes a framework for the new industry.
It’s not clear, however, exactly how long it will be before Marylanders can place bets on their favorite team. Some state lawmakers have expressed hope that at least some level of gambling might be in place in Maryland in time for this fall’s NFL season.
The plan negotiated by lawmakers and signed by the Republican governor grants in-person licenses to the state’s six casinos, the Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course thoroughbred racing tracks, and the stadiums for the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Football Team.
Up to 30 additional in-person betting licenses will be available for off-track betting facilities, the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium and large bingo halls. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees and less than $3 million in sales will pay less for their licenses than bigger operators.
Additionally, up to 60 licenses will be issued for mobile and online sports betting apps, also known as “skins.” They’re expected to be highly desired by businesses looking to get a piece of the Maryland market; the bulk of sports betting in other states is via apps.
With the Maryland bill becoming law immediately, the state can move forward in creating a commission that will review and issue the licenses.
House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones said she was pleased with the bill’s framework for establishing the industry, one of many issues that she said was viewed through “a lens of inclusion” during the annual 90-day legislative session that ended last month.
“I’m particularly proud that we will sign legislation that opens up opportunities in the industry of sports betting to minorities and women,” said Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat.
The number of licenses — nearly 100 in all — was designed to give chances to many businesses, including ones with diverse ownership, to participate. Companies including tech startups, off-track betting parlors and bingo halls lobbied lawmakers for a large number of licenses.
The state will set goals for companies that win licenses to hire minority- and women-owned businesses as subcontractors. Also, the licensing commission will study whether other measures are needed to ensure fair participation by people with minority backgrounds. And a portion of license application fees will be used to create a fund that will offer grants and other assistance to minority- and women-owned businesses working to get into the market.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said it was “exciting” to sign the bill, which represents an economic expansion in the state.
The bill came after Marylanders voted in 2020 to approve permitting sports gambling in the state. The referendum left the details to lawmakers to work out.
Sports gambling companies will pay a 15% tax on their proceeds, which will go largely to public education. Nonpartisan analysts estimate that the state could bring in about $17 million per year once the programs are up and running in a few years.
The bill was one of more than 200 that Hogan, Jones and Ferguson signed while sitting at a large, wooden table in the State House. For the first time in more than a year, they held such a ceremony without wearing masks.
Hogan lifted the state’s mask mandate last week, meaning people can go without face coverings indoors, except on public transit or in schools, day care centers and health care settings. People who aren’t vaccinated are encouraged to continue to wear masks.
“It’s funny to be here without masks on,” Ferguson said. “We can feel the after-times of this pandemic.”
Still, the ceremony was missing the typical parade of lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates, who usually queue up to have their pictures taken as the leaders sign bills they worked on.
Among the more than 200 bills signed into law are measures that:
- Repeal “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song. Jones pushed for the repeal, and Hogan on Tuesday called it “a relic of the Confederacy that is clearly outdated and out of touch.”
- Allow bars and restaurants to continue to offer carryout and delivery of alcohol, which was allowed last year amid the pandemic to sustain them.
- Open the door for college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, a measure named after Jordan McNair, a University of Maryland Terrapins football player who died in 2018 after suffering heatstroke during a workout.
- Prohibit students from entering public school properties if they are registered sex offenders. The proposal came after a 21-year-old Parkville High School student was charged with rape in 2019 following an earlier guilty plea to a sex offense.
A day after the legislative session ended in April, Hogan signed another batch of bills, including bills setting guidelines for compensating wrongly convicted and incarcerated people, restructuring the Maryland Environmental Service following an executive salary and benefits scandal, and creating an Office of Statewide Broadband.
Other measures passed by lawmakers are going into law after the legislature overrode the governor’s vetoes, including policing reforms and accountability measures. Those bills overhaul the process for officers accused of misconduct, allow public scrutiny of disciplinary files and require officers to use force only when “proportional” and “necessary.”
The governor has until June 1 to take actions on more than 800 other bills approved by state lawmakers. He can veto them, sign them into law or allow them to become law without his signature.