Consensus: Gaming shows cooperative tone over Maryland sports betting referendum By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports October 13, 2020 at 7:00 pm Maryland’s sports betting ballot referendum has a more united effort and cooperative tone in the gaming industry than the state’s previous gaming expansion referendums. It only took eight years for détente to settle in. Sports betting operators and casino leaders are on the same page when it comes to Maryland’s Question 2. If approved by voters on Nov. 3, sports betting will head to the Maryland Legislature, which will debate rules and regulations governing the activity. Maryland lawmakers punted the issue to voters in the spring when the legislative session was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. The original legislation allowed for retail sportsbooks and mobile wagering and estimated some $20 million in annual tax revenues to the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which pays for public schools. There isn’t a shortage of support for the question by sports betting operators, who view the state as another vibrant market, and Maryland casino operators, who don’t want to be left behind after neighboring states legalized the activity. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey all have legal sports betting. Virginia’s sports betting is expected to launch in 2021. In Washington, D.C., sports betting windows at the Capital One Arena took in more than 69,000 wagers totaling $9.1 million in August. A 25,000-square-foot William Hill U.S.-operated sportsbook could launch by year-end. You can see why Maryland wants skin in the game. “It’s hard to imagine that it will not pass,” Global Market Advisors Director of Government Affairs Brendan Bussmann said last month. Don’t believe for one second that Maryland sports betting supporters are taking passage for granted. They still have nightmares following last year’s sports betting ballot question in Colorado, which passed by a slim 44,000-vote margin after polls showed more than 60% support leading up the election. The Baltimore Sun reported last weekend that gaming companies invested upward of $3 million to persuade voters to support Question 2. DraftKings and FanDuel have invested a combined $2.75 million in the “Vote Yes on Question 2” group. Baltimore Ravens fans will be able to bet on their team if sports betting passes in Maryland/Shutterstock Casino operators aren’t sitting on the sidelines. Caesars Entertainment-operated Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Cordish Gaming’s Maryland Live! have ponied up, as has the Maryland Jockey Club, which views sports betting as a way of reviving the state’s horse racing industry. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the renamed Washington Football Team, is also a supporter, hoping to land a sports betting facility at his team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland. William Hill is Caesars’ sports betting operator. The bookmaker also works with Golden Entertainment in Nevada. Golden owns the Rocky Gap Casino and Resort in Western Maryland, which would immediately compete with sports betting operations in neighboring Pittsburgh and West Virginia. MGM Resorts International’s MGM National Harbor would become another location for a BetMGM-branded sportsbook and mobile wager vehicle. Meanwhile, Penn National Gaming and partner Barstool Sports won’t be left out. Penn has an option to acquire the operations of Hollywood Casino Perryville from Gaming and Leisure Properties, which would become more valuable if sports betting is added to the mix. In 2012, gaming expansion in Maryland wasn’t so collaborative. MGM Resorts, seeking voter approval to build MGM National Harbor, faced an onslaught of opposition from Penn National, which saw its Maryland racetrack as the preferred casino location. Penn was also concerned that a new competitor would take business from the nearby Hollywood Casino at Charlestown Races in neighboring West Virginia. The statewide measure carried other incentives – allowing the five existing slot machine-only casinos to add table games and lowering of the state’s gaming tax rate. Combined, MGM and Penn spent roughly $80 million on a rancorous advertising barrage aimed at Maryland voters. MGM highlighted the tax-revenue and job benefits that the project would have on Prince George’s County and the surrounding communities. Penn’s campaign was criticized for projecting an anti-casino and anti-gaming theme. The bitterness was not lost on the gaming industry. The campaign was carried out with such fervor that it forced the American Gaming Association, which maintained a neutrality stance on statewide gaming referendums, to counter the negative rhetoric concerning casino jobs. In the end, the measure passed by 101,531 votes out of more than 2.64 million votes cast in the election. But 2020 is different. MGM and Penn are led by different CEOs and the industry fully supports sports betting in Maryland. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.