Bill Seeks to Legalize Sports Betting in Maryland

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

The state of Maryland is inching closer towards legalizing sports wagering.


House Bill 1132, filed by Hornberger (R-Cecil) and fellow Delegate Jason Buckel (R-Allegany) on Feb. 8, seeks to allow wagering on sports in the state beginning July 1 under the authority of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency. 

Hornberger hopes to avoid putting the state further behind neighbors like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which have already approved sports wagering.  The earliest a referendum could be put in front of voters is 2020. 

Buckel does not believe one is necessary.

“We’re of the opinion that residents have legalized gambling in the state, and it’s up to the legislature and (Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency) to decide how regulate it,” he said. “Every time the State Lottery comes up with a new scratch-off ticket game, we don’t go to a referendum to authorize it.” 

Specifically, HB1132 rests on the belief that the sports gambling could be controlled by the Maryland Lottery, a potential loophole solution with legal uncertainty. 

From Cecil and Whig:

Others are concerned about Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution, which was approved in a 2007 special session to allow slots gambling in the state. Section 1, Chapter 5 reads that, “The General Assembly may only authorize additional forms of expansion of commercial gaming if approval is granted through a referendum, authorized by an act of General Assembly, in a general election by a majority of the qualified voters in the state.”

Voters have previously approved of gambling via slot machines and table games in 2008 and 2012 referendums, respectively.

As a stopgap measure to ensure the issue moves forward this year, Delegate Jay Walker and five co-sponsors filed House Bill 963, which would put the issue to a referendum in 2020.

When asked whether he and Buckel had sought an opinion from the Maryland’s attorney general on whether they could bypass a referendum, Hornberger said only that he had been told that “the language is ambiguous.”

Interest in moving forward with Buckel's bill not requiring an amendment appears to be waning.

Democratic State Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch have said in the past they hoped there was a way to move forward without an amendment, though now there is some degree of doubt.

“They haven’t taken a formal position on whether to seek a referendum, but the filing of a referendum bill sends a pretty clear message to me,” he said.

- Gilbert Horowitz,

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