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Orioles and Ravens don’t want to be left behind as sports betting spreads in Washington and beyond

The Orioles and Ravens want to make sure they’re not left behind as the state Senate decides how to allocate sports betting licenses to teams, casinos and racetracks.

The Orioles are concerned that a recently passed House of Delegates bill would “unfairly put Maryland professional sports teams at a disadvantage as compared with casinos and racetracks — or other professional sports teams in other states,” said a written statement submitted by the club last week to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

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With two weeks left in the legislative session, the committee is considering the measure, approved March 11 by the House, allowing in-person sports betting at casinos and tracks, as well as at the Orioles’, Ravens’ and Washington Football Team’s stadiums.

But the stadiums only would be permitted to offer wagering on game days or during special events — not year-round.

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Limiting betting in that way “is just one more reason why the teams that play in a smaller sports market like ours cannot compete with teams in larger markets which could certainly affect the long-term viability of the teams that play in the Camden Yards Sports Complex,” said written testimony submitted to the panel by Thomas Kelso, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, the landlord for the Orioles and Ravens.

The Washington Nationals baseball team already has a license allowing it, in collaboration with sports betting partner BetMGM, to offer a year-round, “brick-and-mortar” sportsbook which may be open this summer. Fans also will be able to bet via a mobile app in and around the stadium.

The Washington Football Team has a permit in Virginia for online sports betting that already is up and running in conjunction with FanDuel, the betting and fantasy sports app.

Under the Maryland legislation, teams receiving a sportsbook license would need to apply separately for a mobile license. The Orioles want brick-and-mortar license holders to automatically be permitted a betting app, saying “consumers prefer mobile betting,” according to a team position paper submitted to the Maryland Senate and obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

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The Ravens’ position is more nuanced. The NFL team is requesting it be given the same sports betting opportunities as any other Maryland club, including the Washington Football Team, according to two sources familiar with the team’s thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the Ravens have not released an official sports betting statement.

Keeping up with amenities offered by other teams is particularly important to the Orioles and Ravens because both of their stadiums lie within 40 miles of Washington competitors. Allowing year-round, in-person betting would fit with the stadium authority’s goal of increasing foot traffic in the area around Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino, turning it into a vibrant entertainment district even when the teams aren’t playing.

The plan, Kelso said in his testimony, is “to evolve the Camden Yards complex into a live, work, play environment very similar to those that exist in Atlanta, St. Louis, Arlington, Texas, Los Angeles, and those planned in Seattle, Boston, Denver, and other cities. Sports gaming is an entertainment option, compatible with sports whether it is live, broadcast on television or radio, or livestreamed digitally.”

Representatives of the Orioles and Ravens said it was too early to discuss how sports betting might work at their stadiums. The sportsbook at Nationals Park is to be set up outside the center field gate. It won’t be accessible inside the stadium, but fans will be able to use an app from concourses or seats.

While the Baltimore teams have been relatively quiet about any sports betting intentions, the Washington Football Team, which plays at FedEx Field in Prince George’s County, has long indicated its desire to offer on-site and mobile sports wagers.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports.

Asked for comment, Washington team spokesperson Joe Maloney referred a reporter Saturday to recent testimony about the merits of sports betting.

“The State of Maryland sits on the precipice of a transformational opportunity for economic empowerment,” said the testimony delivered by the team last month to the House Ways and Means Committee.

With the legislative session ending April 12, the Senate has little time to approve, amend or reject the House bill. Senate Budget & Taxation Chairman Guy Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat, said in an interview Friday that it would be premature to comment on the bill.

Under the bill, the state’s six casinos, the Laurel Park thoroughbred racetrack, the Maryland state fairgrounds in Timonium and Riverboat on the Potomac, an off-track betting facility on the Potomac River, would be eligible for in-person sports wagering. The bill also allows for in-person betting at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on race days. Businesses with on-site betting also could apply to conduct mobile wagering.

The state would receive 15% of the gambling proceeds in the form of a tax. The money that comes in — expected to be in the neighborhood of $20 million a year — would go largely to public education.

In 2020, Maryland voters approved a ballot measure allowing it to join neighboring jurisdictions Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia in allowing sports wagering that has proliferated as the nation’s attitudes toward gambling have relaxed. It is up to the General Assembly to establish a framework.

The House bill would enable a sports betting licensing commission to include provisions in the process to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses — which have been shown to be disadvantaged in the gambling industry — have the opportunity to win licenses.

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