General Assembly to Consider Sports Wagering Proposal

The State’s fiscal picture, and a pending commitment to substantial new education investments, has driven talk of authorizing new activities that carry substantial new revenue potential. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services last year estimated that legalized sports wagering in Maryland could generate annual revenues of $35.6 million.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a 35-year-old federal law that banned sports betting in most states – opening the door for Maryland to authorize, regulate, and tax sports wagering. However, Chapter 5 of the 2007 special session amended the Maryland Constitution so that after November 15, 2008, the General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approved through a referendum by a majority of the voters in a general election.

Senate Bill 58 – Expansion of Commercial Gaming – Referendum – Sports Wagering, pre-filed by Senator Chris West, which is subject to voter referendum, establishes that the General Assembly may authorize, by law, that the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission may issue a license to offer sports wagering in the State to a video lottery operation licensee or a licensee for thoroughbred racing or harness racing.

The bill also provides the General Assembly’s intent that, if the voter referendum is approved, State revenues generated by sports wagering be used for dedicated purposes, including public education.

Sports wagering is legal in eleven states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. SB 58 is a reintroduction of SB 470/HB 739 of 2019. Neither bill advanced out of committee.