Maryland Sports Betting Bill Signed Into Law: Here’s What Comes Next

Maryland Sports Betting Bill Signed Into Law: Here’s What Comes Next article feature image

Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Camden Yards

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed his state’s online and retail sports betting law Tuesday, the final formality ahead of an anticipated launch by fall 2021.

The bill passed as an "emergency" allowing it to take effect as soon as it was signed.  Maryland sportsbook operators had already started prepping launches even before lawmakers passed the sweeping sports betting bill with huge bipartisan margins in April.

Regulators must approve further rules, then select and license each sportsbook, but officials hope the first books go live before September.

Hogan’s signature — an inevitability given the lopsided legislative support — formalizes the fifth state to pass legal sports betting in 2021 following South Dakota, Wyoming, New York and Arizona.

Maryland joins more than two dozen states that take sports bets now or have passed laws to do so. That includes every neighboring jurisdiction: Virginia, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.

Maryland Sports Betting Details

Maryland will allow as many as 60 online sportsbooks, the highest cap of any jurisdiction in the country. If all 60 licenses are awarded, Maryland would have nearly triple the number of online sports betting options currently live in New Jersey, the national leader in average monthly handle.

Some of the state’s six commercial casinos have already secured partnerships or plans for retail and online sportsbook launches by this fall. Announced or likely sportsbook partners include BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, TwinSpires and Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook.

The 2021 law permits the state’s major professional sports stadiums to open sportsbooks, becoming the fourth jurisdiction to do so after Washington D.C., Illinois and Arizona. The three stadiums are MLB’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards as well as the NFL’s FedEx Field and M&T Bank Stadium.

Maryland’s sweeping bill also includes licenses set aside for Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, the state fairgrounds and certain off-track betting facilities. A host of other Maryland interests, including minor league stadiums, sports bars and many other types of small and locally-owned businesses will also be able to apply for a statewide mobile license.

With nearly twice as many licenses available than any other state, Maryland lawmakers hope a wide range of business entities can benefit from legal wagering. A regulatory body created under the 2021 bill will determine licensure and by law will give certain priorities to minority and women-owned businesses.

The same committee will also award up to 30 retail sportsbook licenses under similar eligibility criteria for state businesses. Maryland could have more brick-and-mortar sportsbooks than virtually any other state outside Nevada and will be among the first to award physical sports betting licenses to non-casino or gaming properties.

Maryland’s pending 2021 sports betting launch comes months after state voters overwhelmingly supported a sports betting constitutional amendment referendum on last year’s ballot. Lawmakers this year had to finalize key regulatory and taxation details before wagering could begin.

Though sports betting had widespread bipartisan support in Maryland, lawmakers worked through several incarnations of the ensuing regulatory bill, at one point amending legislation that would have allowed an uncapped number of sportsbooks entrants. Ultimately lawmakers settled on a 60-license cap for online sportsbooks, which make up the vast majority of betting handle in mature markets, as a way to (somewhat) limit competition while also assuring small, minority-owned and local businesses could operate in conjunction with the larger, more established gaming entities.

Maryland Sports Betting Launch & Next Steps

These established gaming entities are already moving toward officials’ anticipated late summer or early fall launch with the expectations the first legal books can go live ahead of the 2021 football season. The larger brands are still subject to licensing review and approval, but many top operators should have little trouble passing regulatory certification.

The myriad smaller businesses could take longer. Larger brands without an existing Maryland retail partner — such as PointsBet, 888 and bet365 — could quickly partner with a local business, but as the first state to allow such a wide range of businesses to apply, the regulatory review process could take months.

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Only one online sportsbook unaffiliated with an existing gaming entity, Tennessee Action 24/7, has launched in the U.S. The company was accounting for less than 1% of Tennessee’s average monthly betting handle before it had its licensed suspended months after launch as officials investigated money laundering allegations.

These factors mean it could be years until Maryland nears its 60-cap allotment, but Maryland bettors should expect as a dozen or more market leaders in neighboring states to launch before the end of the year. Home to multiple professional sports teams and the nation’s highest median household income, sportsbook operators are excited about Maryland’s market potential.

Work remains to be done after Hogan’s signature, but Maryland sports betting is well on its way to one of the nation’s most competitive, expansive markets and a 2021 launch.

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