B ill 940, filed early this month by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, provides a legislative framework for sports betting in Maryland, which voters authorized with a referendum last year. The measure would allow both casinos and race tracks — which have previously battled for control over sportsbooks — to each have a piece of the action. HB 940 is the first of what could be several proposals as legislators work to hammer out the logistics for sports betting. Maryland voters decided in November to authorize sports wagers, joining more than a dozen states that allow betting on athletics, but left most of the fine print for legislators to decide afterwards, the Baltimore Business Journal reports. Under the measure, the state's six casinos would be eligible for a Class A license, as well as Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park race track and the Timonium Race Track. A Class B license would allow up to five other facilities to host sports wagering, as well, as long as they are located more than 10 miles away from any Class A operator. The legislation opens the door to placing game-day bets at Maryland football and baseball stadiums, through partnerships with local casinos. Mobile sports wagering — which in other states has been the busiest platform for sports betting — would be counted as a separate privilege, and both Class A and Class B operators would be eligible to apply for up to 10 available licenses. Several of the state's casinos have already signaled this is their intention: The Cordish Cos., which owns Hanover's Live Casino and Hotel, announced a partnership with FanDuel in 2019, and Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino recently said it has chosen British bookmaker and gaming app William Hill as a partner in its pursuit of a gaming license. Bettors would need to be at least 21 years old and would have to place bets within the state of Maryland, whether they were wagering at an in-person sportsbook or using an online or mobile platform. The State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which oversees Maryland's six casinos, would also be the regulator for sports betting operations. The House bill leaves several significant details for the commission to decide, including the grounds and procedures for reprimanding operators, rules for sports wagering conduct, and how points spreads, odds and lines will be determined. The bill would let the commission set maximum wager amounts, as well as the amount of cash reserves that operators must keep on hand. The Lottery and Gaming Control Commission did not have a hand in drafting the legislation, spokeswoman Carole Gentry said Tuesday. "We're currently working to assess the requirements and regulatory structure necessary to accommodate the current House bill," she wrote in an email. "We continue to support the passage of sports betting legislation and are ready to offer our perspectives on potential structures." A separate Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, with seven members appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Jones, the House speaker, would be tasked with reviewing and approving applicants for sports betting licenses. In-person operators would keep 85% of their proceeds from sports wagering, and give the remaining 15% to the Blueprint for Maryland's Future Fund, which will help pay for sweeping education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission. The House of Delegates voted Monday to override Hogan's veto of the education bill, which passed last session, and the Senate is set to hold its own override vote later this week. Mobile operators, meanwhile, would retain 85% of their first $5 million, and then would be required to increase their contribution to the state, keeping 82.5% of any further proceeds. The bill also makes mention of encouraging participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in the industry, after legislators emphasized inclusion should be a priority. The legislation would ask the Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to determine whether remedial measures are necessary to help minorities and women establish a foothold in the industry. Horseshoe Casino announced last month that it has plans for minority investors to have an interest of at least 25% in its upcoming application for a sports wagering license. "Diversity is one of our core values at the Horseshoe," the casino's general manager, Randy Conroy, said. "We'll be actively seeking women or minority business enterprises to be our partner in this endeavor." The measure heads to a hearing Feb. 25 in the House's Ways and Means committee. In order to be successful, an identical bill will need to be filed and approved in the Senate, or the House legislation will need to "cross over" and win support from a majority of senators. .
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