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Maryland Legalizes State Regulated Sports Gambling

Another state has put a bill on the table regarding sports gambling. As of February 8, Maryland has a bill in circulation that would establish legalized sports betting in the state, pending the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. In the event of PASPA being repealed, Maryland would be able to legally host and regulate sports gambling. Legislators are hoping for this outcome as a way of stimulating the state economy.

PASPA is a federal law from the early 90s that bars 46 states from allowing state licensed sports gambling. Maryland is one of these states. The four exempted states—Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Nevada—all have some form of sports betting, though Nevada is the only one out of those four to have single-game betting. PASPA has been the dominating law for 25 years now, but states like Maryland believe that it is time for sports gambling to be brought into the fold.

The bill—entitled H989—has several aspects to it and would set up a sports gambling industry that is properly regulated. The bill deals with “establishing the task force to study the implementation of sports gaming in the state to monitor federal law, study sports gaming in other states, and make recommendations regarding implementation of sports gaming in the state; authorizing, pursuant to specified regulations, the holders of a sports gaming license to accept wagers on sporting events; authorizing a video lottery operator or horse racing licensee to apply for a sports gaming license to accept wagers from specified individuals on specified sporting events; etc.” (H989) The interesting thing about the bill is that it doesn’t just hit the ground running; Maryland is ready to go through a vetting process in order to set up a good sports gambling industry. The task force would likely look at Nevada to base its sports betting model. There is potentially another case that could assist the task force.

New Jersey has been the most aggressive state in fighting against PASPA. They are currently appealing a ruling on a bill that went around PASPA. However, if New Jersey’s appeal is heard by the Supreme Court then it could affect the sports gambling industry in America. Maryland is watching the case closely, as are some other states that have similar bills in circulation.

Interest in legal Maryland sports gambling isn’t unfounded. The state has major professional sports franchises and several casinos. This bodes well from both a fan and business perspective. Sports gambling allows fans to get engaged with the sport. For casino owners, it’s another highly profitable revenue stream.

The determining factor here is whether PASPA stays or not. President Trump has said on record that he’s open to the idea of sports gambling, but only after consulting with the major league commissioners and the proper authorities to map out a structured way of introducing it. The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, has said how he supports sports gambling. The MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has said how they are going to reexamine their stance on the issue. The other two leagues have been quieter on it—though the NFL has been more outspoken against it—but their interest could change given the federal government taking action on the subject.

Maryland, like New Jersey and the other states pushing for sports gambling, are going to have wait and see how this plays out. Their proposed bill would only go into effect if PASPA were repealed, so until there is some forward momentum in Washington, bettors will have to wait before they can get in on the action. There should be some sort of resolution this year, but only time will tell.