ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Sports betting has already been legalized in D.C. and Virginia. Now Maryland has a chance to get in on the action.
The referendum addressed in Question 2 on the Maryland ballot asks voters if they should legalize sports betting in Maryland. So how could this impact you?
Sports betting has received nearly unanimous support in both the Maryland State House and Senate. The reason this is even up for a vote is due to Article 19 of the Maryland Constitution.
In 2008, Article XIX authorized commercial gaming of slot machines. It also included guidance on approving any changes to or any new types of commercial gaming in the state. According to Article XIX, those new ventures, like sports betting, have to be approved by referendum in a general election.
Now that it’s on the ballot, the big questions are where will the revenue from sports betting be allocated and who will it truly benefit?
To get those answers WUSA9 spoke with Shane August, a D.C.-based minority-owned sport wagering operator, Maryland State Sen. Craig Zucker and Chairman of the Maryland State Black Caucus, Darryl Barnes.
"This is an opportunity to legalize and regulate something people are going to do anyway," August, owner of Handle 19, said.
August said his company is the first minority-owned sports wagering operator in the United States.
"One reason we launched in D.C. is because they were small business favorable," he said. "They were actually the first jurisdiction in the country to make a way for small businesses to participate."
Currently, sports betting is illegal in Maryland, but with sports betting on the ballot this November, August believes a yes vote on Question 2 could help him and other minority-owned small businesses grow.
"The lowball assumption is that Maryland will get an additional $20 to $40 million in additional revenue from sports betting," Craig Zucker, the District 14 delegate for the Maryland State Senate, said.
Zucker said a yes vote on Question 2 would not only help grow a new industry in the state, but it would help fund education as well.
"We have a 100% guarantee that the additional revenues for sports betting will go to the Education Trust Fund," he said.
But what guarantee is there in the current referendum that minority small business owners like August will be able to profit from legalizing sports betting? Darryl Barnes, Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said there isn’t one, but if passed, he said he’ll be fighting for that representation amongst the kingpins of the industry.
"You think of FanDuel and DraftKings, they're the central hub for such an event," Barnes said.
He argues that Maryland needs to look at the infrastructure of sports betting like "the infrastructure, the sports power itself and the ticketing system."
"All of those things are part of the sports betting experience, but it's those that actually own the facility that really reaps the reward and the financial benefits behind it," Barnes said. "And those are the things in which we are advocating for to ensure that we're just not the ones that you call to purchase the tickets, but we want to make sure that you know we're actually part of the ownership of the sports betting itself."
Zucker said that because the coronavirus caused casinos to shut down, the Education Trust Fund saw a $150 million loss. He doesn’t think that sports betting can completely fill that hole, but he believes it will make a significant dent.