Maryland Considers Sports Betting Ahead Of Supreme Court Ruling

On Dec. 4 the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the merits of a 1992 federal law that drastically limited sports betting in America, but 30 miles away in Annapolis some are wondering if Maryland should wait around for the ruling.

According to reports, lawmakers and stakeholders in the state’s casino gambling industry met Tuesday to consider whether legislative action needs to happen soon in order to keep the state at the forefront of looming sports betting industry. The American Gaming Association estimates that about $150 billion is bet on sports nationwide each year, with less than $5 billion wagered legally through Nevada sports books.

“Right now, there’s more momentum for repealing [PASPA] than ever before,” AGA senior VP of public affairs Sara Slane told the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight, per a report from the Baltimore Business Journal. “I would urge you and other legislators to get out in front of this, because when it does happen you’re going to have states ready to go in first position…to open up sports books.”

A decision from the Supreme Court could happen between April and June, 2018, Slane said.

Earlier this year a bill was introduced to establish a task force to study the “implementation of sports gaming” and the monitoring of federal law on the activity. The bill failed to make it out of committee, but the discussions are obviously continuing.

Maryland voters would get to weigh in on any law authorizing sports books, as was the case when the state established a Las Vegas-style gambling industry about a decade ago.

In a fiscal analysis accompanying the sports betting study bill, Maryland estimated that gaming revenue could grow between 1.5 percent and 6.5 percent on an annual basis if its six casinos had sports books.

The state came up with that range based on revenues in Nevada and Delaware, the latter of which has limited sports betting in the form of parlays. Nevada allows single-game betting.

Nevada generated $219.2 million, or 1.95 percent of gaming revenues, from sports betting in 2016. Delaware generated $37.9 million, or 6.3 percent of gaming revenues, from sports lotteries in fiscal year 2015, according to Maryland.

A record $4.5 billion was bet on sports in Nevada last year, and the casinos retained about five percent of those wagers in the form of winnings.

Once upon a time, sports betting and poker were basically on equal footing in Nevada. However, the poker market has remained flat in recent years thanks to the absence of a nationwide online component, while gambling on sports contests has consistently grown year-over-year.

Atlantic City, once the undisputed gambling mecca of the east coast, is the driving force behind the challenge to PASPA. The beleaguered seaside gambling town was given a lifeline from internet betting, but it still needs some help. New Jersey officials want Atlantic City’s seven remaining casinos to have 100-percent legal sports books. Lawmakers there tried to circumvent PASPA, but the leagues and the NCAA sued to block the move—and so here we are in a position were all 40 states with casinos could eventually have sports books.

In addition to Maryland, states with massive gambling markets like Pennsylvania and California have begun preparing for a potential change to federal law.

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