Marylanders rejoice! On Thursday, February 25th, your long journey to legalized sports betting will take one step closer to fruition. The General Assembly is meeting to discuss proposed legislation on how to implement the statewide sports betting program.
After Free State residents voted overwhelmingly in support of legalized sports betting in last fall’s elections, legislators were tasked with shaping how the program would look. Thursday’s meeting is one of the final hurdles to clear before locals can expect to place bets like:
🚨 BIG GAME BIG BET ALERT 🚨
— William Hill US (@WilliamHillUS) February 7, 2021
Since elected assemblymembers will soon determine the program’s direction, let’s look to Maryland’s neighbor to the northeast, New Jersey, to see what the state can learn.
Beyond their simple proximity, the two states make for a great comparison.
First, Maryland and New Jersey have similar populations, about six million vs. eight million, respectively. Secondly, those populations have comparable median incomes- $40,341 vs. $38,238, making it reasonable to assume betting trends may be alike.
Additionally, though each state is geographically small, they both have major professional sports scenes, especially when including local metros Washington D.C. and New York City. Because of these similarities and the fact that the Garden State’s sports betting has been an incredible success, it is worth looking at what Maryland can learn from New Jersey.
Before diving into the lessons learned, though, let’s consider what we can expect from the Maryland system, should Thursday’s legislation be approved.
Maryland’s Sports Betting System
The state has laid a foundation for profit allocation from sports betting. 15% of income from companies licensed for sports betting would be funneled into the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund, supporting state education systems. For reference, analyst estimates suggest Maryland could profit as much as $364 million annually. That could turn out to be a healthy boost to education coffers in the state.
Of course, any income generated will be based on the success of companies holding sports betting licenses. The legislation suggests allocating three types of licenses based on betting locale. First, each of Maryland’s six existing casinos and two horse racing tracks could expect in-person betting licenses. Second, up to five more authorizations for in-person betting at other, to be determined, locations, and finally, up to ten licenses for the lucrative online betting market.
Three Lessons Maryland Can Learn From New Jersey Sports Betting
Maryland has laid the groundwork for what the state believes should be a successful system capable of a smooth rollout like New Jersey’s. With that in mind, we have identified the following lessons that Maryland can learn from New Jersey’s sports betting system:
#1 Emphasize Mobile Registration Over In-Person Registration
One of the reasons New Jersey has been such a wild success is because it allows for mobile registration for sports betting. Unlike Nevada, where bettors are required to register at sportsbooks in-person, in New Jersey, a resident can register with a mobile sportsbook from anywhere in the state.
Virtual registration has, in part, led to the state’s incredible rise to the number one spot for sports-betting. In 2020, New Jersey decimated the record for annual sports wagers by ringing up $6 billion in bets. For reference, Nevada set the previous record in 2019 at $5.4 billion, indicating a 10.5% jump in money wagered.
In December 2020, 93.2% of all bets in New Jersey were placed online. Allowing for mobile registration is clearly a boon for the state’s coffers. Granted, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. Still, it is not as if people are going to stop online betting because casinos are safer. Maryland should note this and ensure that mobile registration is allowed and takes precedence over in-person registration.
#2 Legalize Betting on Associated Athletic Events
One of the joys of sports betting is that you can wager on outcomes outside of athletic competition. People love to place bets on sports events like professional drafts, the ESPY Awards, and the Superbowl halftime show’s length.
However, it is not a guarantee that placing these types of bets will be legal. New Jersey allows betting on non-athletic events, but Pennsylvania does not. Legalizing these additional betting channels will impart a more robust wagering system and provide countless more opportunities for Maryland to generate tax revenue.
If the ultimate goal is to raise funds for initiatives like the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, it is a no-brainer to follow New Jersey’s lead and legalize betting on associated athletic events.
#3 Do Not Restrict In-State Collegiate Sports Betting
In New Jersey, it is illegal to bet on in-state college teams and any college sports events taking place in-state. While there are hundreds of collegiate sports teams and events outside of Maryland, restricting betting on in-state teams is a mistake. That would prevent placing bets on magical March Madness runs by Maryland schools like UMBC in 2018. It would also mean no betting on any University of Maryland sports, including rivalry football games against Penn State and the University of Virginia.
The University of Maryland has more than 385,000 alumni, many of which still live in-state. Preventing them from wagering on their alma mater will detract from the sports betting scene in Maryland and sap the state of significant potential income. We can expect betting interest to be high for local teams, and preventing that energy would be a shame.
Of course, the justification is to prevent bribery in collegiate athletics, but that can already occur when sports betting is illegal. If anything, the legalization of betting on in-state college sports might provide more transparent channels to track any bribery attempts.
How Will Sports Betting Work in Maryland?
Exactly how Maryland chooses to structure sports betting remains to be seen. We know the state has plans to utilize a fair portion of its revenue to fund education. Based on the proposed legislation the General Assembly is reviewing this week, it is clear the state also intends to approve mobile betting. Doing so is an essential aspect of a thriving sports betting program.
Marylanders might be frustrated to be late to the sports betting party, with so many neighbors already instituting legal systems, but the state is only fashionably late. The benefit of a delayed arrival is learning from the mistakes of the early adopters.
New Jersey has been a roaring sport betting success. If Maryland can learn from that example, there is no reason it too cannot crush expectations.