Maryland still hasn’t managed to get legal sports betting passed, but everyone is hopeful that they can get it done. A big part of implementing sports betting will fall to Gordon Medenica, Director of Maryland Lottery & Gaming, who joined our Becky Liggero Fontana to talk about the effort.
Medenica was keen to note that state lotteries have already proven quite adept at running sports betting, and he had examples to prove it. “Well you know, lotteries worldwide do about 70% of all the sports betting in the world,” he said. “And so in terms of the umbrella organizations that will manage and make decisions about who the vendors are and where the actual betting will take place, I think it’s a natural fit that that will fall under lotteries in the United States. And you’ve already seen that in Oregon and New Hampshire and Tennessee and many other states. So I think it’s the natural area for gaming regulation and oversight and I think sports betting will just become another product in that whole universe.”
But the lottery won’t be competing with sports betting operators, as Medenica sees it. Rather, they’ll become partners. “Well I think the operators are going to be the vendors to the lotteries and to the casinos that are regulated by lottery,” he said. “So, I think it’ll involve much the same companies, the competitive dynamic is going to be interesting to watch, but I don’t think people are talking about lotteries themselves actually running their own internal sports book with state employees setting Vegas odds. You know, that I think, is not going to happen.”
The problem with getting sports betting going in Maryland has been disagreement on details, and because of the constitution, it still may be a while before action starts. “Well, you know, just a couple years ago bills passed in both the House and the Senate in Maryland, authorizing sports betting, but they couldn’t agree on exactly how it would be structured,” Medenica explained. “And in Maryland, we have to go to a referendum, so we lost a couple of years. So the session that begins in January will once again take up a number of sports betting bills. We obviously have a point of view, trying to express it in terms of what we think is an ideal structure, but we’re convinced something will pass there’s quite universal political support and also consumer support. Polls I’ve seen people in Maryland love to see sports betting being done in a regulated and legal manner, and getting it away from the illegal operators. Assuming something does get passed then in this session, it’ll go to a referendum in November, so it’ll probably be 2021 before we actually can offer sports betting to the people of Maryland.”
Liggero Fontana wondered if Medenica was concerned that Maryland could be falling behind other states, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “Well you know, there’s an old joke in the lottery business that everybody wants to be third,” he said. “You know, if you’re first, you get your head handed to you, if you’re second you still don’t have it right, so we might be third. But we hopefully will get it really right, and we are absolutely watching everything that’s going on in the industry, and interestingly in the lottery business, the lottery directors are a closed group and we share information all the time, because we don’t compete with each other. And so, it’s very easy for us to learn what other people are doing, what their experiences has been, the vendors that they like and don’t like, and all of that shared experience I think will help everybody design the best structure for their individual jurisdiction.”