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Maryland casinos welcome horse racing fans to place their bets on Preakness

Retail sports betting legalized in December
Posted at 5:40 AM, May 20, 2022

BALTIMORE — Not all of the action surrounding the Preakness Stakes will take place at Pimlico. For the first time in the history of the race, Maryland bettors can head to a local casino and place a bet on their favorite horse to win.

Sports betting has been legal in Maryland since December at five of the state’s casinos.

Sports wagers got off to an explosive start; bets nearly doubled in the first two months from December to January, from about $16 million to $32 million.

Total casino gaming revenue in Maryland is up nearly 18% for fiscal year 2022 from 2021, from $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.

The Preakness stakes is a nearly 150-year-old tradition but this year it brings something new to diehard horse racing fans like Billy Horr. He plans to skip the trip to Pimlico and head straight to the Horseshoe Casino in South Baltimore instead.

“I grew up near Saratoga, so I know all about horses from Justify, Secretariat, Alysheba, Lady Secret, like John Henry was one of the best horses ever. So, I’m really a horse guy. So, I know the horses. So, you know it’s awesome. It just makes it more convenient,” Horr said.

It also seems appropriate an experienced horse racing fan like Horr would place his bets at a casino named after a widely recognized symbol of good luck.

“Saturday morning, always day of bet the race. You go walk right over to the machine, put your money in, bet your horse. Bet your parlays, your quinellas and your exactas, take your ticket, go home. Watch the race and then come back and cash it in,” Horr said.

It's a first for five Maryland casinos since sports betting became legal in December 2021.

Horseshoe Casino vice president of marketing Tom Yorke said “it just gives something else that our customers wanted. They’ve been asking for sports gambling for a long time, and they’re having a lot of fun with it. We’ve had the OTB for a minute, as well around Triple Crown is when it really starts to hit its high notes.”

It affects the bottom line for both casinos and players.

Since December, bettors have placed $132,544,146 in sports wagers at Maryland casinos.

Lucky winners took home $117,277,377.

So far, Maryland casinos have made $12,694,311 in revenue from sports betting.

Sports betting also added $2,240,845 to the state's education fund in six-months time.

It's a win-win situation for Yorke.

“Not only is it a fun entertainment destination, that people can spend the night, listen to good music, gamble a little bit and just have a lot of fun at our restaurants,” Yorke said.

“At the same time, we know a lot of our tax dollars go to help our education. Locally, we like to give back to the city all the time. More than half of our employees are from Baltimore city so we like to keep the money all here,” Yorke added.

While many are excited to bet on the Preakness Stakes at a local casino, Horr also is anxious for the chance to place his bets on his smartphone.

“I've been to Vegas a couple times, Lake Tahoe, but the problem is we need the app in Maryland. The other states that have been approved for sports betting have the app, so this way, you don’t even have to come downtown, you can just stay in your house,” Horr said.

For those who want to get out of the house, some might wonder how to wager which horse will win the second jewel in the Triple Crown.

“Betting on horses is very simple. Our most popular bets, win. If the horse wins outright. Place, come in first or second. Show is first second or third. Those are very simple bets to make,” Yorke said.

“You get a little more complicated but you know, a little more risk, more reward on your exacta, which is your first and second horse to win. And trifecta, where you can win a lot of money if you get first, second, and third, all right,” Yorke added.

Sports betting dipped after the Super Bowl in February to around $25 million. There was a strong interest leading up to the Kentucky Derby so with Preakness being a Maryland tradition, area casino operators are hedging their bets on a successful weekend.

Meanwhile, bettors who are excited for mobile sports wagering, will have to wait a little longer for those apps to become available in Maryland.

The state can create up to 60 mobile licenses. Currently, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) is taking a look at the industry to make sure there are opportunities for women and people of color. That analysis is still in process and expected to be completed in a few months.