This Tuesday will see several pressing issues put to voters in Maryland. Not only will they have to vote for the next US president, but they will also get to decide whether Maryland becomes the latest state to legalize sports betting. Question 2 on the ballot paper would give the state the right to pass legislation to permit betting on sports. This follows on from Question 1 which would ask voters if the state legislature should have the to raise, lower or change the allocation of the governor’s funding.
The Question 2 measure would only require a simple majority and early indications are that Maryland is set to become the 24th US state to allow legal sports betting. A poll undertaken by Goucher College in February noted that 47% of potential voters would support the bill. This was followed up by a poll taken by Our Voice Maryland earlier this month that suggested that the numbers in favor of legal sports betting had risen to 52%.
Much of this can be put down to some serious lobbying efforts by several interested parties. In particular, the fantasy sports brands FanDuel and DraftKings have both funded campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits that legalized sports betting could bring. It has been estimated that these sportsbooks have invested nearly $3 million for the campaign to be aired on local television, radio and social media outlets.
What’s remarkable is how little opposition there has been to Question 2. Apart from a brief article in the Baltimore Sun, it seems that there has been little organized opposition to the legalization of sports betting in the state.
In addition to this, the governor of Maryland Larry Hogan has been vocal about his support for the referendum. Hogan stated that the passing of the bill would provide desperately needed revenues for future public education projects. Like most US states, Maryland has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The state legislature would be deeply unwilling to raise further taxes on families and businesses to fund these educational ventures.
As such the plan to legalize sports betting would build on the so-called ‘Hogan Lockbox’ that has already been preserving revenues gained from casino gaming into a fund for educational programs. With Maryland casinos already enjoying anfor the first time since the pandemic struck, such projects could clearly have a hugely positive impact on the state’s education system.
While the proposals behind Question 2 look hugely promising, there are still a number of important questions that need to be resolved. Key among these is the question of what kinds of sports will it be legal for Maryland residents to bet on. Other states have maintained the outlawing of betting on college sports, and it’s widely expected that Maryland could follow suit.
Then there is a question about who will gain the licenses necessary to become a legal sports betting operator. Many have speculated that the state’s racetracks will be the first to pay the hefty fees necessary to acquire a license. Plus there’s a belief that Maryland’s casinos would also be willing to diversify their online gambling revenues by getting a sports betting license. This is especially true as these physical casinos have faced increased competition from some of the online providers featuredand investment in legal sports betting could be a shrewd move.
Such questions are unlikely to derail the move towards legalized sports betting in Maryland. This is especially so as the majority of nearby states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already made sports betting legal. As such Maryland will run the risk of getting left behind if voters decided not to pass Question 2 on Tuesday. But whatever happens, it’s sure to be yet another dramatic day of political action on November 3.