Maryland Casinos Push for Sports Betting Legalization

Casino owners in Maryland have urged the state Legislature to initiate discussions over the legalization of sports betting amid hopes that the US Supreme Court could lift a long-standing federal ban on the provision of sports betting services.

Last week, the nation’s highest court scheduled a December 4 hearing on the sports betting case. A final decision on the matter is likely to be announced next spring.

There are six casinos in Maryland at present. The owners of the three largest such properties, with those being Maryland Live!, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, and MGM National Harbor, which opened doors late last year, have spoken to local media, saying that individual states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want a legalized sports betting industry or not.

Gambling matters have not been discussed by Maryland lawmakers for over five years now. The last gambling-related debate to have been initiated in the Legislature concluded with the authorization of a sixth casino – the above-mentioned MGM National Harbor.

Casino gambling was originally legalized in the state in 2008
and five properties opened doors as a result. Any changes in Maryland’s landscape need to be approved by lawmakers and then by voters.

Casino executives have urged state legislators, particularly ones from the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight to consider the matter in due manner so that a ballot question is put before voters during the 2018 General Election.

Owners of the state’s five casinos have pointed out that Maryland should be well-prepared, if the federal sports betting ban is lifted. According to casino officials, if legislators wait for the Supreme Court’s decision and take up the sports betting issue afterwards, Maryland could fall well behind its neighboring states in the creation of a profitable sports betting industry and in the competition for sports betting clientèle.

It seems, however, that this might be the likely scenario and that lawmakers will indeed first wait what the Supreme Court and the Congress have to say on the matter.

According to owners of Maryland’s casinos, a legalized sports betting industry could generate millions of additional casino visits and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The Increased Nationwide Push for Sports Betting Legalization

With very few exceptions, Nevada being the most notable one, sports betting is prohibited in the United States. The federal ban was enforced in 1992, when then-President George H. W. Bush signed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Support for the ban’s removal has grown significantly over the past several years, with the American Gaming Association leading the lobbying efforts. According to the AGA, huge amounts are annually wagered on sports by Americans and that the majority of the money goes to illegal operators. The Association estimated that nearly $5 billion would be bet on the 2017 Super Bowl and 97% of that amount would be bet illegally.

New Jersey, which approved the legalization of sports betting at the state’s casinos in the early 2010s, brought the matter to the Supreme Court. It was announced this summer that the nation’s highest court intended to hear the case, raising hopes for the eventual nationwide legalization of sports betting.

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