By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The issue of casino gambling could return to Maryland’s General Assembly in 2018.

Some estimate it could bring in up to $100 million in new revenue every year.

Joe Weinberg, the head of the company that operates Maryland Live Casino & Hotel in Anne Arundel County says he’s “all in” for an effort to legalize sports betting at the state’s casinos.

Weinberg has urged members of the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight to take up the issue in 2018. Howard County Delegate Frank Turner says legislation to allow sports betting will likely find a sponsor, but he’s unsure if it will pass next year.

“Got a lot of states right now that are interested in legalizing and regulating sports betting,” said Sara Slane of the America Gaming Association.

After last season’s Super Bowl, the American Gaming Association estimated that $4.7 billion was bet on the game, 97 percent of it was done illegally.

“Recapturing some of that tax revenue that certainly the states aren’t getting right now, as well as the jobs, would be a boom for the state of Maryland,” Slane said.

Delegate Turner, the gaming committee’s house co-chair, said despite those numbers, legal sports betting only contributes less than two percent of the revenue in casinos that offer it.

“It’s 1.9 percent of the entire gaming industry in Las Vegas,” Turner said. “It’s not a huge amount of revenue that’s going to come in from sports betting but it is revenue.”

Most of the revenue would go to the Education Trust Fund. Besides extra cash, many argue it would draw more foot traffic into the casinos.

While it could certainly bring lucrative opportunities, Delegate Turner said it’s crucial not to rush the process.

“We can do it in Maryland but I think we need to protect the integrity of sports games too,” Turner said. “I want to make sure when you watch a game, NFL or basketball game, that the integrity is there. If we don’t get it in 2018, we can try in 2020.”

Federal law bans sports betting in most states. New Jersey has challenged the law, arguing it prevents state officials from responding to their constituents’ gambling preferences.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the challenge in its current term. A decision isn’t expected until spring. The owners of the state’s three largest casinos say states should have the authority to sanction sports bets.

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