Adding sports wagering at Maryland casinos a bad bet for now

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ANNAPOLIS — Maryland once said it would only have slots in racetracks.

But that was before the existing slots casinos were approved by voters four years ago. It was even longer before Question 7 was passed last month, allowing table games at the five existing casinos and adding a sixth location at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

So, with Delaware already offering legalized sports gambling, and New Jersey planning to follow suit to stay competitive in the gambling-saturated northeast corridor, could Maryland soon join its neighbors and permit sports wagers?

Policy-makers in the state aren’t betting on it.

“It’s not something that has come up in any conversations,” said Delegate Barbara A. Frush, Prince George’s Democrat. “Nothing has ever been mentioned. It hasn’t been brought up.”

Currently, Marylanders still need to go the traditional route to place a sports wager. That requires a trip to Nevada, Montana, Oregon or Delaware, as these are the only states to have legal sports gambling.

For the more technologically inclined gamblers, there are the quasi-legal online betting sites, although their legitimacy is cloudy at best.

If Maryland were going to explore the possibility of sports betting, it would be a surprise to Donald F. Norris, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“I haven’t heard anything of it,” he said. “I’m willing to guess that the current governor is so fed up with the gambling issue that I’m sure he will not support anything.”

For Maryland to press sports betting, Mr. Norris said there would need to be more active supporters throughout the state.

“If there’s no demand, there’s not likely to be legislation,” he said. “I don’t see anything being put forward with regard to gambling.”

He added: “Who can predict the future?”

Citing strict federal laws, among several factors, other analysts outside Maryland don’t expect gambling to be the new frontier, either.

Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, doesn’t see a reason for states to push for legalized sports bets.

“Historically, it has been a very small portion of the revenue stream,” he said.

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