A bill that would help to legalize sports betting in Maryland has been heard by the House of Ways & Means Committee.

  • The Free State continues to edge its way closer to legalize sports betting as another bill, MD HB605, was heard by a legislative committee.
  • MD HB605 would amend the Constitution in Maryland where the subject of gaming expansion is concerned.
  • Legal sports betting in Maryland could potentially bring millions of dollars in annual revenue that would go toward their education system and other areas of their economy in need of funding.

BALTIMORE – Bill MD HB605 would help to legalize sports betting in Maryland. The proposal was heard by the House of Ways & Means Committee on Thursday. The first reading for MD HB605 occurred on January 27.

What Is MD HB605?

MD HB605 would call for an amendment to the Constitution of Maryland. The bill reads:

“For the purpose of proposing an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to repeal a certain prohibition on the authority of the General Assembly to authorize additional forms or the expansion of commercial gaming; repealing the authority of the General Assembly to authorize, through the use of a certain referendum, additional forms or the expansion of commercial gaming; conforming certain provisions of the Maryland Constitution to changes made by a certain referendum; making a certain conforming change; and submitting this amendment to the qualified voters of the State of Maryland for their adoption or rejection.”

Video lottery gaming would be allowed as well as opening the door for wagering for horse racing and sports betting. MD SB 325 is a similar bill asking for the same things by way of the Senate bill route.

Amending the Constitution in Maryland would be a very helpful tool for legalizing sports betting in the state or expanding gaming operations further for current license holders.

The Hearing

During the hearing with the House of Ways & Means Committee, many good points were made in favor of MD HB605. Firstly, horse racing tracks want to be allowed to run sportsbooks from the racetracks, ultimately turning them into racebooks.

The bill allows for the referendum factor toward gaming to be eliminated from the Constitution and this was also well received. By taking that part out of the Constitution, all kinds of gaming expansion from sports betting to casinos to internet casino games can be introduced to the state without needing to wait for an even-numbered year as is currently stated in the Constitution.

Six internet casino gaming licenses were allotted in the proposal and the Committee agreed that no more than six should be added. Maryland is not new to gambling. In 2004, slot machines were voted into legalization and eight years later in 2012, table games received the voters’ legal seal of approval.

The sports betting bill  MD SB 4 which is strictly concerning sports betting and MD HB 605 are different measures. If both were to pass through the legislature both would be put on voter’s ballots in November of 2020.

MD HB 605 is simply seeking to bypass voter referendums for expanding gambling operations in the state for current license holders.

The Bottom Line

Lawmakers seem to be in favor of making sports betting legal in Maryland. The bill seemed to be seen in a positive light in the hearing, but a vote was not taken. Once the committee votes on it, sports bettors in the Free State will know where they stand for legalized sports betting in 2020. Depending on how the Ways & Means Committee decides to roll on MD HB605 will inevitably decide its fate.

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