A plurality of Marylanders are in favor of bringing sports wagering to state casinos or racetracks, but the support falls just shy of the majority needed to pass a ballot referendum to amend the state’s constitution, according to a new poll by Gonzales Research & Media Services.
Forty-nine percent of respondents were in favor of legalizing sports betting, while 36 percent said they were opposed. Critically, 15 percent, a cohort that would ultimately decide the fate of a referendum, since Maryland law requires a simple majority for passage, have no opinion.
An overwhelming number of people agreed, however, that the issue should be put on the next election ballot. Eighty-one percent said they would rather have a referendum on the issue instead of a law from the General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan, including 90 percent of the respondents against the idea altogether.
Sports betting in various forms had previously been restricted to Las Vegas and a few states before a 2018 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal prohibition, saying the matter should be decided individually by local lawmakers.
Following the ruling, several jurisdictions moved to legalize sports wagering, including New Jersey, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, and Maryland’s neighbors in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. Legislators in Virginia will reportedly take up a bill to legalize sports gambling this month.
Maryland has moved more deliberately.
The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill last March to put a referendum on sports betting on the 2018 ballot, anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision, but it did not advance. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch both said they would be open to returning for a special session to take up the matter, but Gov. Larry Hogan did not call them back.
If a similar measure passes in the upcoming session, the question would not appear on ballots until the 2020 election.
The poll, conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services from Dec. 28 to Jan. 4, surveyed 809 registered Maryland voters.
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