Will Maryland lawmakers schedule special session on sports betting?

Less than a month after Delaware and New Jersey launched full-blown sports betting, some Maryland lawmakers are quietly discussing the possibility of a special session on the issue.

The Maryland Daily Recordreported that legislators and lobbyists said there are discussions underway for a potential special session in late July, though the newspaper also said leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates wouldn’t comment. The session could be held if Gov. Larry Hogan calls it or a majority of the General Assembly would have to petition for it.

Earlier this year, a House bill sponsored by Del. Frank Turner passed on a vote of 124-14. It specifies that a video lottery terminal licensee—a casino—or a licensee for mile-track Thoroughbred racing or Standardbred racing—Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Rosecroft Raceway and Casino Ocean Downs—would be eligible to offer sports betting.

The bill, which would authorize a constitutional amendment, would have taken effect July 1 of this year contingent upon the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act no longer prohibiting sports betting, which ended up being the case in mid-May. The House measure, however, never made it beyond a hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee the last week of March.

At that hearing, Turner explained that the House opted to include language specifying that casinos and racetracks both be eligible for sports betting licenses. But a representative of Cordish Companies, which operates the Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County, told the committee sports betting should be offered only at casinos.

The Daily Recordreport indicated lawmakers believe such details could be worked out before a special session, if there is one, or could simply offer a basic bill authorizing a constitutional amendment on sports betting. In Maryland, state voters must approve an expansion of gambling; if a referendum isn’t held this November, the matter would have to wait until 2020.

Meanwhile, the Delaware Lottery released the figures for its first month of full sports betting after years of only offering parlay-style bets on National Football League games. The reporting period is from June 5-24.

According to the state, the amount played at the three racetrack casinos was $7,003,725, with $5,232,878 of it coming at Delaware Park. The amount won by bettors was $6,003,478, leaving a net win of just over $1 million. Almost 70,000 individual bets were made at the three tracks.

Delaware Park’s net proceeds were $653,277, while Dover Downs earned $143,952 and Harrington Raceway $77,987. Purses at the tracks get 9.6% (Thoroughbred) and 10.2% (Standardbred) of sports betting net proceeds; $62,715 for purses was generated at Delaware Park for the 20-day period.

In comparison, for the entire 2017-18 parlay-card season, sports betting at Delaware Park generated $292,820 for purses. That doesn’t include the track’s share of $672,675 in purse revenue produced by the more than 100 retail outlets around the state that currently offer parlay-card betting only. 

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