When Will Maryland Get Sports Betting?

Maryland is one of the 13 states that don’t currently have any legal sports betting. But that could change as soon as next year. Thanks to a court case in New Jersey, the legality of sports betting is being tested.

Here are the details.

What Is The Current Law In Maryland?

For decades, Maryland has been a “no” when it comes to sports betting. Starting in the early 1900s, the state consistently rejected efforts to legalize sports betting. The last time Marylanders got to enjoy legalized odds was on May 14, 1978, when the Maryland State legislature passed a bill to allow sports betting.

But that was short-lived. Less than three weeks later, on June 10, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional Racing Association of Maryland’s (PRAM’s) lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on sports betting. The Court’s decision in the case, William Hill v. Maryland, effectively legalized sports betting in all states. (The Court also ruled 8-0 that states cannot outlaw sports betting.)

Since then, Marylanders have been unable to enjoy the legal wagering opportunities made possible by sports betting. (The exception is the above-mentioned May 14, 1978, win for PRAM.)

Why Has Maryland Stuck In Neutral On Sports Betting?

It’s no secret that Maryland has a problem with addiction, and it’s connected to gambling. (The state’s biggest gambling venue, BWI Airport, was originally known as the Maryland Airport.) In the 1950s and ’60s, illegal casinos opened in Baltimore, which led to a rash of addiction and gambling-related problems. (The number of people who gambled more than they could afford multiplied by four in the decade after the casinos opened.)

Because of this history, many in the state have been wary of wading back into the world of legalized sports betting. But that could all be about to change.

It all starts with a court case in New Jersey that could have national implications.

What Is The New Jersey Case?

In December 2018, New Jersey residents voted to legalize sports betting for a host of games, including football, basketball, and baseball. The vote was part of a larger state budget deal that also included a legal gambling expansion. (More than 10% of New Jersey residents live in areas that are considered “sports gambling neighborhoods.”) The new law allows for sports betting at casinos and racetracks, online, and via apps.

But there’s a catch: The law applies only to sports between February 2 and October 31. The decision was made to prevent teams from scheduling games during the peak season (i.e., the NFL and NCAA football seasons) so as to not hurt their popularity.

On October 2, 2019, the first legal sports betting events took place in New Jersey after the February 2 cutoff date. For the most part, everything went smoothly, but there were some glitches. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has since identified more than 140 problems, ranging from incorrect lines to malfunctioning betting interfaces. (The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement has also opened a help desk for New Jersey residents who have questions about the new law.)

Because of these issues, October 2nd has been temporarily banned as a sports betting date in New Jersey. But the state’s top court won’t rule on whether or not to make the moratorium permanent until it hears arguments in the case of William Hill v. Maryland.

Why Does This Case Involve Maryland?

Maryland is one of the 13 original states that still maintain a capital city lottery. Four of those states (Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, and Maryland) along with Louisiana currently allow for full-fledged casino gaming. Four other states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York) have sports betting partially legalized.

So, while most states have changed their minds about sports betting, Maryland is arguably the biggest holdout. And this case could determine whether or not the state breaks ranks with the rest of America and embraces legal wagering on sporting events.

When Will The Decision Be Made In The Case?

On January 7, 2020, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Supreme Court is set to decide whether or not to make the moratorium on sports betting permanent. The state is asking the court to put off its decision until it hears arguments from both sides of the case, William Hill and the State of Maryland. (The court could decide at any time between now and March 3, 2020.)

If the court decides in favor of New Jersey, it could allow for sports betting in the state once more. But if the court sides with William Hill, it could upend New Jersey’s recent efforts to get back into the business of legal sports betting. (The state’s current moratorium on sports betting will remain in place until the court makes its decision.)

What Is The Impact Of The New Jersey Decision?

When the court decides in favor of New Jersey, it will lift the moratorium on sports betting in the state. And that could mean a lot of money for the state and the city’s casinos. (The state’s sportsbooks have seen a 400% expansion in the amount of money wagered since the start of the 2019-2020 NFL season.)

Under the terms of the New Jersey settlement, the state and city will split the revenue from sports betting 50-50. (So, effectively, every dollar spent on legal betting will generate $1.00 for the state and city as a whole.) If the city keeps its casino operations, that would mean an additional $50 million a year for the city’s general fund. (There are currently more than 450 million reasons why New Jersey voters should embrace legal betting.)

The state’s racetracks have also seen an uptick in wagers since the start of the new decade. (They now host more than 200 legal betting events a week, including sports and simulcast betting.) This is mainly thanks to the NHL, which moved its all-star game from Dallas to Las Vegas in 2020. (The 2020 edition of the NHL All-Star Game will take place at the beautiful T-Mobile Arena on January 26-27.)

But the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey comes with its own set of problems, which the state’s top court will need to address. First, there is already a problem with abuse. Since the start of the 2019-2020 NFL season, over 25,000 tickets have been bought and destroyed by individuals who attended games and left before the end without betting on them. (This is called “tattling” and is a common problem when it comes to legalized sports betting.)

Secondly, the new law allows for mobile wagering. While casinos have adapted to the new environment and are now offering games through mobile apps, the racetracks have not. (Most of the simulcast wagering through apps still takes place at land-based casinos.)

Third, sportsbooks are governed by strict sports gambling regulations in New Jersey. (For example, all sportsbooks must be licensed by the state and adhering to regulations that include things like minimum age requirements and sports betting limits.)

These are just some of the problems that the state will need to address if it decides to legalise sports betting. (And, hopefully, the New Jersey legislature will fix them all in time for the 2022 season.) But if the court decides in favor of William Hill, it could wipe out all of New Jersey’s efforts to get back into the business of legal sports betting. (The state will have to start from scratch and apply for a new waiver to get back into the game.)