Maryland voters are set to decide on the sports betting issue in November 2020. Legislation passed earlier this year will put sports betting to a simple yes/no ballot question. If the majority of voters approve, the General Assembly will be free to draw up additional legislation to implement sports betting in Maryland.

Other online betting options in Maryland include horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports. In-person gambling options consist of six casinos, multiple racetracks, off-track betting locations (OTBs) and the state lottery.

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Maryland Sports Betting

Maryland has been flirting with the idea of legal sports betting since early 2018, even before the Supreme Court ruled PASPA unconstitutional.  

A bill introduced in February 2018 called for Maryland to hold a constitutional referendum to legalize sports betting but died before it could become law. Lawmakers took up the issue again in 2019 with the introduction of SB 470 in February and the pre-filing of SB 58 in September. Neither bill managed to gain enough support to become law.

Maryland sports betting efforts made significant headway in 2020 with the House and Senate approving SB 4 in March. Governor Larry Hogan declined to act on the bill, and it passed into law without his signature in May 2020.

The passage of SB 4 set the stage for voters to decide on the issue during the November 2020 election. The bill is light on details as its main purpose is to initiate a statewide referendum on sports betting titled Maryland Question 2.

The following question will appear on the ballot on November 3rd, 2020:

Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?

[ ] For the Referred Law

[ ] Against the Referred Law

If a majority of Maryland voters for the referred law, the General Assembly will be permitted to craft new legislation that will authorize the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to issue licenses and to set the ground rules for sports betting.

An earlier version of SB 4 specifically authorized mobile sports betting and retail sportsbooks, but the bill was stripped of most of its language before passing into law and is concerned primarily with authorizing a referendum. How sports betting will work, exactly, will be clarified with additional legislation and regulations.

Horse Racing Betting in Maryland

Maryland boasts a robust horse racing betting industry as the home of the annual Preakness Stakes and multiple world-class racetracks. Parimutuel horse racing betting is permitted at racetracks, off-track betting facilities and advance deposit wagering providers (online betting sites).

The Maryland Racing Commission regulates horse racing in Maryland and is responsible for issuing licenses, adopting regulations as needed, collecting taxes and more.

Online Racing Betting

Advance deposit wagering operators (ADWs) are allowed to accept horse racing wagers online in Maryland if authorized by the Commission. TVG and TwinSpires stand as the two largest ADWs available in Maryland and operate in compliance with all state and federal laws.

Maryland Racetracks

Live races are held at four thoroughbred tracks and two harness tracks. Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park are perhaps the best-known racetracks in Maryland, but they are hardly the only options. All tracks in Maryland also offer simulcast wagering services allowing customers to place wagers on races held around the country.

Off-Track Betting Locations (OTBs)

Off-track betting is legal in Maryland and a handful of OTBs operate across the state. There is no legal limit to the number of OTBs that may operate.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Fantasy sports sites operated under no constraints in Maryland up until early 2017. The daily fantasy industry did an adequate job self-regulating at the time, but lawmakers were determined to regulate the industry.

After two attempts to pass new legislation failed in 2016, the Maryland Comptroller’s office took matters into its own hands (a 2012 law gave the Comptroller authority to issue daily fantasy regulations) and proposed a series of regulations pertaining to daily fantasy sports.

Those regulations were eventually accepted and went into effect in early 2017. For the most part, the regulations governing daily fantasy sites in Maryland resemble those already active in other states. The one major difference between Maryland and most other states that regulate fantasy sports is Maryland does not have a licensing process and does not require a fee from would-be operators. Anyone is welcome to try their hand at the daily fantasy business in Maryland provided they adhere to the following regulations:

  • Daily fantasy sites must prohibit players under 18, employees of fantasy sites and the family members of employees of fantasy sites from participating in games. Daily fantasy sites must also prohibit professional athletes from participating in contests that involve their sports.
  • Fantasy games based on amateur or college sports are prohibited
  • Operators must clearly identify players who are highly experienced
  • Operators must prohibit the use of third-party scripts (automation tools designed to give experienced players an edge in contests)
  • Operators may not extend credit to players
  • All player funds must be kept in a segregated account separate from that site’s operating funds
  • Operators are prohibited from depicting minors, students and school or college settings in their advertisements
  • Fantasy sites must notify Marylanders of their tax obligations

Maryland Lottery

md lotto

The Maryland Lottery does not sell tickets online but does offer a subscription service. Lottery players may visit the MD Lottery website to print and complete a PDF form to start a subscription from home. Subscriptions are available for four games:

  • Mega Millions
  • Powerball
  • Multi-Match
  • Cash4Life

Subscription packages can be purchased for 13 to 52 weeks (26 to 104 individual drawings). Players may choose their own numbers or have numbers picked at random. Winners of $100-$600 automatically receive a check in the mail.

Winners of more than $600 will be contacted by the MD Lottery via e-mail with instructions for claiming. If a customer is unsure if an e-mail actually comes from the MD Lottery, wins can be verified by logging into the My Lottery Rewards website or by contacting the lottery directly.

Players may only purchase subscriptions by mailing the printed subscription form along with a check or money order for the cost of the subscription.

Online Gambling in Maryland

Maryland has not yet enacted legislation to legalize online poker or casino games and therefore there are no legally sanctioned casino or poker sites in operation. There are no active measures to change that, but state lawmakers have considered the idea fairly recently.

Following extended casino closures and budget shortfalls caused by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers heard testimony from Maryland Lottery director Gordon Medenica on the merits of online gambling and online lottery sales.

Medenica’s testimony focused primarily on iLottery games, but online casino games and poker also stand as distinct possibilities. Maryland’s major land-based casinos are said to support online gambling if it can be done correctly.

Maryland’s lawmakers have stated they are not opposed to online casinos or poker rooms, but they would prefer to wait and see how it goes in other states first. The state’s land-based industry will most likely have some influence over whether or not the state seriously considers adding new forms of internet betting.

This could go one of two ways. If the state’s existing casinos fear competition from the internet, they may very well pressure lawmakers to restrict poker and casino gambling to licensed casinos. The other possibility is the industry will see the potential in internet gaming and seek to get something passed that would allow them to set up their own real money websites.

Maryland also supports parimutuel greyhound and horse betting at certain websites. Just like fantasy sports, internet horse wagering is legal at the federal level and each state has the authority to determine which, if any, racing sites are allowed to accept wagers from residents.

Each dog or horse racing betting site covers a minimum of 100 tracks in the US and abroad. Customers may place wagers on races ever day of the week and be paid instantly. Most sites also simulcast events in real time for desktop and mobile users.

Maryland Gambling Law

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (LGCA) is responsible for overseeing the state lottery and land-based gaming industry. The LGCA is the authority that issues licenses for casinos, monitors casinos for adhering to all state regulations and ensuring that the lottery is run in a safe and legal manner.

Criminal law in Maryland prohibits participating in or organizing gambling except when expressly permitted by the state. Section 12-102 states the following:

(a)   A person may not:

(1)   bet, wager, or gamble;

(2)   make or sell a book or pool on the result of a race, contest, or contingency;

(3)   establish, keep, rent, use, or occupy, or knowingly allow to be established, kept, rented, used, or occupied, all or a part of a building, vessel, or place, on land or water, within the State, for the purpose of:

(i)   betting, wagering, or gambling; or

(ii)   making, selling, or buying books or pools on the result of a race, contest, or contingency; or

(4)   receive, become the depository of, record, register, or forward, or propose, agree, or pretend to forward, money or any other thing or consideration of value, to be bet, wagered, or gambled on the result of a race, contest, or contingency.

(b)   A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not less than 6 months and not exceeding 1 year or a fine of not less than $200 and not exceeding $1,000 or both.

This law could be applied to online poker and gambling but Maryland has never prosecuted a person for playing online to this date. For the most part, the laws are enforced against those who operate unlicensed games and devices.

Maryland decriminalized social poker games in 2016 with the passage of HB 127. Games that meet the following criteria are considered lawful under state law (note: players and organizers should always speak with an attorney prior to attending or hosting a poker game for qualified legal advice).

The home game poker law, HB 127, legalized private poker and card games under certain conditions:

  • The game cannot involve more than $1,000 during any 24-hour period
  • The game cannot be held more than once a week
  • The game is not advertised to the public
  • No one may make a profit off the game except as a player

HB 127 received considerable support among retirees in Maryland who enjoy poker and mah-jongg in particular. One 72-year-old resident who supported the bill explained that she was motivated by an instance in which the police raided a $4 mah-jongg game in her retirement community after a resident who had lost $20 called the police to report the game.