President's Message

Sports Betting at Timonium

I anticipate that the Maryland General Assembly will legalize sports betting during the upcoming session. The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that sports betting can be adopted by states, and our neighboring states are ahead of Maryland in adopting the practice.

The Maryland State Fair has asked GTCC if we will support sports betting at Timonium. They do so because when off-track betting was allowed, the State Fair entered into a covenant with GTCC that said that no other form of gambling would be allowed on their property. I was most concerned about the future of slots and table games at Timonium, plus concerns that a full- blown casino with entertainment and a variety of dining outlets would eventually take place. That cannot happen due to the covenant.

Since the advent of off-track betting, my fears about the OTB have not come to fruition. On the times that I have gone over to the fairgrounds to observe, I have seen an “older” crowd that usually numbers forty to seventy-five patrons. I also checked out the parking lot during one Triple Crown event and did not see a full parking lot, but more in the neighborhood of two hundred cars. The Fairgrounds also reports that the operator for their dining room, the Grandstand Grille, has pulled out due to lack of revenue. All in all, the OTB has not been a burden to the community in my estimation.

I’m also encouraged by the current leadership at the Fairgrounds. They have been much more community relations oriented than past leaders. We have worked successfully on noise issues over the past summer, and it appears that the current leaders are instituting better management policies and reforms to their board structure.

So, what should we expect sports betting to look like? Since a specific bill has not been enacted, it’s not possible to say precisely. However, there was sports betting legislation submitted in 2018, and my description will come from that proposed legislation:

  1. Wagers cannot be made over the telephone or by computer; you must be physically present to make a bet;
  2. Wagers will not be accepted from persons under 21 years of age;
  3. Only holders of video lottery (slots) or horse racing licenses can operate sports wagering, which means that the Fairgrounds will be partnering with the Maryland Jockey Club like they do for off track betting;
  4. The bills entered in 2018 required that sports betting be contingent on passage of a referendum by all voters in a general election before sports betting could start. Fairgrounds officials indicate that the legislation for 2019 may not require the passage at referendum;
  5. Sports betting accounts for approximately 2% of the total gaming revenue in Nevada;
  6. Estimate revenue from sports betting for the whole state was projected to be $33.67 million in FY2020 and $34.18 million in FY2021 according to the Department of Legislative Services;
  7. The total revenue cited in #6 above would be generated at the State’s six casinos and three race courses if Timonium is not included, or four race courses if Timonium gets sports betting;
  8. The bills entered in 2018 required that 20% of the total gaming revenue would go to the Educational Trust Fund, while the other 80% would be retained by the sports betting licensees;
  9. According to Gerry Brewster, Chairman of the Board, the Maryland State Fairgrounds gets $300,000 in revenue from the Jockey Club for the OTB rent. It remains to be seen how much the Fairgrounds would get for sports betting.

One of our GTCC members, Doug Dunlap, a retired Baltimore County vice division officer, had some insightful comments about the type of clientele that sports betting would bring. Doug said he does not expect for the unsavory types to be populating the sports betting sites because sports betting bookies have competitive advantages over legalize sports betting sites. Bookies can take the bets by phone rather than face to face wagering, and they don’t require cash on the barrel head like legalized sports betting. Also, bookies give better payoff odds than sports betting parlors. The inference being that state licensed facilities will draw the occasional gambler rather than the hard-core type.

The Fairgrounds points out that they have many deferred maintenance and/or capital improvements that need to be constructed, but they do not have funds to initiate these projects. If you visited the grandstand you would see bathrooms that are in very poor condition, pressing needs to re-paint interior and exterior surfaces, stains from a leaking roof, seats in the grandstand that need to be replaced at best, or painted at least, and an elevator that needs replacing. I could go on and on about other needs, and that’s just for the grandstand, not the many other buildings on the property.

So I am asking our GTCC associations if we should allow the Fairgrounds to be included as a sports betting site? We don’t have much time to come to this decision because bills cannot be submitted in the legislature after the first week in February. So I would ask that you come up with a position, or abstain from a decision, by January 31. Please communicate that decision to me at my email address and to Laura Renshaw at lerenshaw@comcast.net.

Eric Rockel
President, GTCC