Maryland and Ohio Pushing Hard for Legal Sports Betting Launch
Maryland and Ohio Pushing Hard for Legal Sports Betting Launch
Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 08, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

The race is on to become the next state to welcome in their own legal sports betting platform. The growth of sports betting has been remarkable since the 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn its blanket ban on sports betting – nine states have been added to the mix in 2021 alone. There is a rash of jurisdictions in the running to join the 26 states plus Washington DC already taking legal sports wagers.

Maryland and Ohio, two potential Heavyweights are intriguing names to watch. Each has made substantial moves in launching their own platforms, but each has been bogged down by legislative hurdles. Each would be a welcome addition to the US legal sports betting family, and each would significantly add to the estimated 111 million Americans able to legally place a wager.

The start of the NFL season is the goal for any new sports betting state. Unfortunately, Maryland and Ohio missed that target but aren’t giving up on their citizens being able to place an NFL wager sometime this year.

Checking in on Maryland

Maryland may not be the biggest state in terms of population, but it has an incredible sporting culture. Home to about 6.2 million residents, which ranks 18th in the nation, Maryland boasts its share of professional sports teams – the NFL’s Washington Football Team and Baltimore Ravens as well as MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. College sports programs also have a major impact on the state.

Maryland voters overwhelmingly OK’d a legal sports betting platform on the November 2020 election ballot, paving the way for a robust retail and mobile betting scene. Unfortunately, red tape has stood in the way of a launch that had originally been targeted for the start of the NFL season.

It is looking more like a late-fall launch for the Maryland scene, although no firm date has been announced just yet. The bulk of the regulations are in place and the mandated Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency 30-day public comment period concludes Monday, which means that the Maryland platform is closer to becoming a reality.

Still to be resolved are the rules around their ground-breaking minority inclusion policies and MLB’s insistence of using official league data for any sportsbook taking wagers on their sport.

Both are relatively minor and with a little focus, should be able to be resolved quickly, putting Maryland on track to be taking legal sports bets sometime in 2021.

What About Ohio?

The potential Ohio legal sports betting push had been on a good path until summer hit, legislative breaks became a reality and the stalling of all work being done prior to the hiatus hit the sports wagering push.

The good news for Ohio’s desire to become another legal sports betting state is that the legislature is back in session. The bad news is that the targeted NFL season has already started with no firm timeline for the launch of their state’s legal sports betting scene as of yet.

Ohio is another sought-after sports betting jurisdiction in the broader US scene. It figures to be one of the biggest markets in the country with its 11.7 million residents (7th largest in the nation) and its compliment of pro and elite-level college sports teams. Included are NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, MLB’s Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, the NHL’s Colombus Blue Jackets, and of course the Ohio and Ohio State college programs.

The Ohio Senate passed a sports betting bill before the summer break, and last week there was a call for a conference committee to be formed on the matter. Those steps alone signal the near end of the process.

Regulators are still working on a few details surrounding licensing rules and separating it from an unrelated veteran identification, but the heavy lifting for the state’s legal sports betting push looks as though it has been done.

2021 is still a reasonable goal for legislators and regulators in Ohio to get something done for its citizens. If not 2021, whispers of March Madness as a jumping-off point for the Ohio platform have been mentioned.

Momentum

Both Maryland and Ohio have signaled an intense desire to become part of the US legal sports betting family. Unfortunately, legislative wrangling is holding up both states’ sports betting platform launches.

With the public overwhelmingly on their side as well as the bulk of legislators, pro sports teams and the throng of high-end sports betting providers, something has to give in the two prospective states before too long.

Jobs and a tax revenue bump for state and local coffers are on the line, so look for the pursuit of launch to intensify in Maryland and Ohio as we head deeper into the fall.

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