Hogan’s Holdup: When Will Maryland Sports Betting Happen?

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 12, 2021 - Last Updated on July 19, 2021

One month ago today, the Maryland legislature passed a bill to implement sports betting. So why has the governor not yet signed that legislation into law?

Lawmakers aren’t yet getting antsy that Gov. Larry Hogan will veto the bill, but they’re beginning to wonder what the delay is about.

After all, legislators added an emergency clause to the bill because time is short to get sports betting up and running in Maryland by the beginning of the NFL season. This delay only makes it more difficult to reach that goal.

“I can’t imagine he would veto this,” said Del. Eric Ebersole, who participated in the bill’s formation. “The electorate has already spoken that they want this, and in my considered opinion, we came up with a very good bill that covers the concerns of ownership and fairness for lots of groups.”

Ebersole hoped Hogan would sign the bill May 18. However, it did not make the list of bills the governor will sign.

The waiting is the hardest part for Maryland sports betting

In passing the most inclusive bill ever by a US state, with the potential for more than 100 licensees and complicated criteria for minority participation, the Maryland legislature gave the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission a lot to do.

But the Commission can’t really get going on Maryland online sports betting and retail sportsbooks until the bill goes into effect.

Because the legislature gave the bill an emergency designation, it will go into effect immediately after garnering Hogan’s signature.

Ebersole hypothesized that the governor might be waiting for the state to be ready to start on sports betting.

“As an emergency bill, it becomes law the moment he signs it, so that might have something to do with the delay if he’s not ready to go yet,” Ebersole said. “But I do not know for sure.”

Governor’s signature won’t come this week

Up until this week, it made some sense that the governor hadn’t signed. Hogan likes to sign bills in bulk. His last signing was 66 bills on April 13, before the sports betting bill reached his desk.

But the governor’s office released a list of more than 200 bills he will sign May 18, and sports betting isn’t among them.

The governor’s signature was considered a foregone conclusion when the bill passed. After all, he supported the ballot initiative through which voters legalized sports betting last November.

Without his signature, the bill would automatically become law 30 days after it reached his desk. That puts the date around May 31 or June 1.

Hogan is a Republican, while the General Assembly is majority Democrat, so sometimes he might not want to put his stamp of approval on their bills. But HB 940 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 47-0 in the Senate and 122-16 in the House.

“I have difficulty believing he wouldn’t sign it,” Ebersole said. “Sometimes he would rather not have his name on something, so he just lets it pass, but I don’t know that will be the case here.”

Photo by Brian Witte / The Associated Press
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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