Catching Up With Maryland and Ohio Legal Sports Betting Push

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Progressive Field on August 28, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

The US legal sports betting family has been increasing at an incredible pace since the 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn its blanket ban on legal sports wagering across the country. Nine states have been added to the scene just this year and now 26 states plus Washington DC, along with their combined 111 million residents have their own platforms.

But the pace of growth could be much greater if some state legislators could agree on the finer details of just what kind of platform they want for their states.

Two such states, Maryland and Ohio have been working hard to launch their own legal sports betting platforms – each had hoped for the start of the NFL season to be up-and-running. Red tape and the typical pace of government stalled those plans. Legalization is still on track but just when is still up in the air.

Let’s catch up with each state’s progress on legalizing their own sports betting industries.

Maryland

The state of Maryland promises to be an interesting market for the broad US legal sports betting scene. Citizens in the state overwhelmingly OK’d a sports betting measure on the 2020 election ballot. It paved the way for both retail and mobile platforms to be launched in the state.

Maryland is the 18th ranked state in the US in terms of population with almost 6.2 million residents but is also home to three pro sports teams. Two NFL franchises play their home games in Maryland – the Washington Football Team and Baltimore Ravens as well as MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and college sports is a passion for many Maryland residents.

Regulators have been pointing to a late-fall launch for the legal sports betting platform, although no drop-dead date has been announced. According to John Martin, Director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, 17 potential providers are already in the background check phase on the path toward being licensed.

There are a few hurdles outstanding including just how regulators hope to implement their minority inclusion policies and Major League Baseball’s insistence that the platform use the league’s official data suites.

But, with the bulk of the rules in place and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency 30-day public comment period almost over, the finish line for all regulation is in sight. Monday is the final day for public input and then it is full steam ahead with the licensing process.

Ohio

The Ohio legal sport betting scene had been on a fast-track toward legalization before the summer holidays came and momentum hit a bit of a wall. Hopes are that the start of the NFL season and the obvious and tangible spikes experienced in the industry across the nation will reignite Ohio’s chase at sports betting launch.

The Senate has passed a sports betting bill, meaning that a final draft of the rules is all that is missing in their pursuit of a sports betting platform.

Things look like they are advancing even further with last week’s call for a conference committee that would push the process along. With the legislature back sitting after a summer break, that call may be answered before too long.

Ohio is poised to be one of the biggest markets in the US in terms of population with 11.7 million residents (7th largest in the US). The state is also home to the 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 numerous high-level college sports programs.

The state is still working through a few legislative hurdles including perhaps the biggest sticking point, licensing rules. Tying the sports betting bill to an unrelated veteran identification bill also seems to have backfired.

But most aspects of the bill have been agreed upon including how many and what types of licenses will be issued as well as tax rate and where that tax revenue would go.

The hard parts seem to be done in Ohio and there is still time in this legislative session to get things done. If lawmakers can get together on a proposal that most have already agreed upon, sports betting could happen by then end of calendar 2021. If not, analysts have March Madness as the logical jumping off point for legal sports betting in the state.

Big Fish

The states of Maryland and Ohio are big fish in the US legal sports betting industry. Their inclusion into the broad US family will be a welcome one. Legislators in both states, their pro sports teams, some of the biggest and most eager sports betting providers in the nation and even the majority of the citizens in Maryland and Ohio are eager to see something play out.

The best guess is that both pay close attention to the tax dollars being generated in the 26 states plus Washington DC that are currently offering legal sports betting, and they act quickly to launch their own legal sports betting platforms, sometime this year.