(April 16, 2021) From mobile apps on any Maryland soil to an in-person sportsbook at Ocean Downs Casino, sports betting is officially making its way to the Ocean City area.
In November, Maryland voters resoundingly endorsed allowing sports better at casinos and stadiums by a 2-1 margin, joining nearly 20 states across the country including neighboring Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The vote paved the way for legislators to iron out details on Monday, the last day of this year’s General Assembly session. Filed as House Bill 940, the legislation allows 60 online operators and 30 retail sportsbooks — including casinos, professional sports stadiums, small businesses and others — to obtain sports betting licenses.
Among them is Ocean Downs, which is seeking an A-2 license. General Manager Bobbi Sample said via email that the license carries a $1 million application fee as well as costs for background investigations.
According to the bill, application fees could be as high as $2.5 million for casinos, depending on operation size.
Del. Wayne Hartman (R-38C) said the state gets a cut of each application fee as well as a percentage of every bet made, with the money set to pay for education costs mapped out within the multi-year Kirwan Plan.
Like many of the casinos in Maryland, Ocean Downs already has a direct sportsbook partner in TwinSpires. However, Sample said the timeline and process for getting it up and running is up to members of a soon-to-be-appointed Sports Wagering Application Review Commission.
“Our understanding is that it would be in a timeframe that will allow us to be up and running by the NFL season,” she said. “The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency is drafting the rules and regulations that we would need to follow, that will include the types of bets that we are allowed to take.”
The casino will also have a monopoly of sorts on the brick and mortar market on the shore. According to the language of the bill, while mobile betting is accessible from anywhere, no other business can open a physical sportsbook within a 15-mile radius around the Route 589 gambling spot. That competition-free zone encompasses all of Ocean City, Berlin, Ocean Pines and well beyond.
Hartman explained that Ocean Downs is one of several “rural” casinos, with a radius that high. The central Maryland casinos will have a much smaller 1.5-mile radius drawn around them.
Sample said she anticipates some changes will be made on the gaming floor at Ocean Downs to accommodate a sportsbook, but no expansions are planned. Overall, she said the addition should be positive.
“Generally speaking, a sportsbook generates foot traffic into the casino which typically results in additional gaming revenues as well as food and beverage revenues,” she said.
Ocean Downs currently offers table games and slots year-round, and live harness racing in season.