Maryland Sports Betting Campaign in Gear

Maryland voters will consider a referendum on the November ballot to legalize sports betting. At the same time, the two largest sports betting operators in the U.S., DraftKings and FanDuel, are funding an ad campaign led by former University of Maryland basketball star Marissa Coleman (l.), they hope will sway voters to say yes.

On November 3, Maryland voters will finally get the chance to authorize sports betting, by answering yes or no to a question on the election ballot that reads, “Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the state of Maryland to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

Question 2 on the Maryland ballot is the result of two years of wrangling in the state legislature over the sports betting question, after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to place the issue before voters in 2018, the year the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports wagering.

The two largest sports betting companies in the U.S., FanDuel and DraftKings, are joining forces to help the effort along. The two companies donated a combined $750,000 to the “Vote Yes on Question 2” campaign, which was confirmed by a campaign finance report published by Legal Sports Report.

The campaign’s first television ad was broadcast last week, featuring public school teachers who say sports betting will help the state recover education funding lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A representative of FanDuel told the Washington Post the company donated $500,000 to the initiative after the filing deadline for the most recent campaign finance reports. FanDuel said it plans to spend an additional $1 million to $1.5 million on the push to make sports betting legal in Maryland.

The ballot initiative, Vote Yes on Question 2, is chaired by basketball star Marissa Coleman, a former Women’s National Basketball Association player who was part of the 2006 University of Maryland team that won the NCAA Championship.

“You’ll hear a lot of my voice—see a lot of my face—to educate as many people as possible,” Coleman told the Post from France, where she’s playing in a European league this fall to finish out her professional career.

“Sports fans in Maryland are ready—and waiting—to bet on sports legally,” DraftKings said in a statement to the Post. “Legalizing sports betting will allow for a customer-centric experience and shut down illegal sites that offer no consumer protections. It will also keep money in Maryland that’s currently going to legal markets in neighboring states.”

Sports betting in Maryland could raise as much as $40 million in annual tax revenue, according to a recent estimate from Oxford Economics. The majority, or potentially all, of that would be earmarked for education.

The “Yes on Question 2” campaign’s website focuses on the education funding aspect, and also on the revenue that Maryland is leaving on the table to be snatched up by neighboring jurisdictions like Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Before Maryland lawmakers abandoned efforts to define a Maryland sports betting program through legislation and concentrate on the referendum bill, draft legislation called for sportsbooks at all six of the state’s casinos and two racetracks, as well as potentially at the stadium of the Washington NFL team. The Senate bill called for a licensing fee of $1.5 million to $2.5 million depending on how many slot machines a casino has. Sports betting revenue would have been taxed at 20 percent.

DraftKings and FanDuel are calling for multiple skins for each online sportsbook to maximize revenue.