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Maryland General Assembly

Voters could decide whether to legalize fantasy sports sites

Rachel Baye

The state Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that would ban commercial gambling, such as fantasy sports leagues. The bills would protect small-scale bets among friends or coworkers, such as March Madness bracket pools.

The legislation would give voters the final say on the matter in November.

The two measures close a loophole left open when Maryland expanded legal gambling via ballot measure in 2012. Attorney General Brian Frosh highlighted the gap in the state's laws in a letter he wrote to Senate President Mike Miller in January.

Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, a Prince George's County Democrat and the sponsor of one of the bills, said the goal is to be able to regulate the gaming while being fair.

“We want to give the people the opportunity to decide yes or no, and we want to be fair to the casinos, to be honest with you, because they went through an entire referendum, not once but twice," he said.

Peters said the Senate will put the two bills to a final vote on Thursday.

The large fantasy sports operators DraftKings and FanDuel have come under fire in recent months for operating illegally in several states, including New York, where they stopped taking bets on Monday.