Maryland is exploring ways to fast-track sports betting without a statewide referendum as more states are expected to jump on the wagering bandwagon this year
Maryland lawmakers have rekindled the sports betting legalization debate just days after the beginning of the 2019 legislative session and are looking for faster ways to pass a legislation authorizing the practice without voter approval.
Under the state’s current law, any proposal for commercial gambling expansion should be approved via a statewide referendum. Residents of Maryland approved the legalization of casino gambling a little over a decade ago, but sports betting requires another referendum.
State lawmakers could not pass a betting legislation to put it on the November ballot last year, which means that the practice could only be legalized after the 2020 ballot and if endorsed by voters.
However, neighboring Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have all gone live with sports gambling since last May when the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on the activity, which means that Maryland has already lost important competitive advantage.
To prevent the state lag further behind its neighbors, legislators are now exploring a possible loophole – the legalization of wagering on sports through the state lottery instead of through privately-run entities.
The Maryland lottery was created in 1972 after voters approved Constitutional amendment that authorized the creation of the body and gave it the power to consider various lottery games without requiring endorsement by residents.
What Lawmakers Think
A spokesperson for the state’s Governor, Larry Hogan, has said that the official will be working closely with the General Assembly to determine the best path toward the legalization and regulation of sports betting. It also became known that Maryland’s top official is open to any ideas put forward.
Del. Anne Kaiser, Chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has said that she believes a sports betting legislation will pass during this year’s session. However, it is yet to be seen what path the state Legislature will take.
Gordon Medenica, Director of the Maryland lottery, has told media that they are ready to embrace sports betting and that they have been keeping up with the developments in the field. However, Mr. Medenica pointed out that the General Assembly will have a lot of things to consider and clarify before going forward with an actual legislation.
The lottery official explained that lawmakers might need to discuss the definition of lottery games and lottery operation, and to clarify what it means for a given lottery game to be operated by the state lottery. According to Mr. Medenica, even if the General Assembly passes a sports betting legislation, the activity would probably not go live before early 2020, as a procurement process will have to be conducted first.
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