The professional sports leagues struck out again on Wednesday when the D.C. City Council opted to remove language from its sports betting bill that would have payed the leagues a royalty. Entering Wednesday’s “mark-up” hearing in the Finance and Revenue Committee, a revised version of Bill 22-944 included a one-quarter of 1 percent cut of gross sports wagering revenue as a payout to the professional leagues. But the council unanimously agreed to cut the amendment that added that fee.
The net result is that the committee agreed to move the bill along to a first reading, set for Dec. 4. The goal is to get the bill voted on at a Dec. 16 meeting.
During the one-hour hearing, several other bills were discussed, but the committee spent about half an hour discussing sports betting. Key changes to the original bill included creating a two-block no-competition zone around designated gaming facilities; removing the mandate that sportsbooks use official league data and replacing that with the royalty; language reaffirming that the D.C. Lottery would regulate sports betting; and allowing mobile bettors to use the D.C. Lottery sports betting app around the city, but requiring them to use only the app approved by a gaming facility in said facility.
Read more D.C. Council Quashes Pro-League Fee, But Sports Betting Bill Moves On on SportsHandle.
A Washington Post poll conducted in Sept. 2017 showed that 55% of respondents approved of legalizing sports betting with only 33% disapproving — the highest level of support ever record by the Roper Center public opinion archive.
Now a brand new Post poll surveying Maryland registered voters found numbers in line with the national figures — 53 percent are in favor of legal sports wagering on professional sports, against 37 percent opposed (10 percent had no opinion).
Unfortunately for those Marylanders approving and also desiring to make legal sports bets, they’ll probably be waiting more than two years to do so within Maryland borders.
The Maryland state constitution requires that any gambling expansion must go to the voters via ballot referendum. In March, the House of Delegates passed a bill 124-14 that would have put the matter on the Nov. 6 ballot, however the bill failed to make it out of committee in the Senate before the legislative session ended.
As proponents at the time advised, now the next opportunity to get it on the ballot won’t come until Nov. 2020, unless lawmakers have the motivation and find a way to bypass the state constitution. Unlikely.
Read more Poll: Most Maryland Voters Want Sports Betting, Will Have to Wait on SportsHandle.
Indiana, Illinois and the District of Columbia will have hearings on sports betting this week. Both the Indiana and Illinois hearings are informational, ahead of the midterm elections and winter sessions, while the D.C. Council hearing could be the first step in legalizing sports betting before the end of the year.
In Indiana, the Interim Study Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Representative Ben Smaltz (R-District 52) will hear public testimony and have a committee discussion about legal sports betting before issuing a recommendation on the topic on Friday beginning at 12 p.m. ET. The Indiana General Assembly adjourned in March without legalizing sports betting.
Sports betting was definitely a hot topic among some members of the assembly, and in January, Representative Alan Morrison (R-District 42) introduced HB 1325, a sports wagering bill that marked the first appearance of a bill containing several pro leagues’ “Model Legislation” language and a 1 percent “integrity fee” that they’ve been after. The bill died in committee and no additional legislation was introduced before the session closed. On the Senate side, Jon Ford (R-District 38) also introduced legislation, but it, too, died in committee.
Read more Sports Betting on Agenda This Week In Indiana, Illinois and Washington, D.C. on SportsHandle.