Sports betting apps give millions in free bets in Maryland

Sports betting apps promote free bets to lure new gamblers. It is legitimate, and it adds up to millions of dollars each month.

Maryland Lottery and Gaming reports the eight mobile sports betting apps approved to operate in the state handled $325.1 million in wagers in February — $15.8 million of that was free promotional wagers.

Promotional play provided to customers by sportsbooks is deducted from the taxable win owed to the state.

Maryland’s 10 retail and eight state-approved mobile sportsbooks generated a combined $339.4 million in wagers in February. Sportsbooks contribute 15% of taxable win to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund, which supports public education programs.

Mobile wagering accounted for $2.7 million in contributions to the state in February. Retail sportsbooks, including betting parlors at Maryland casinos, contributed $98,114 in February.

Maryland’s sportsbooks do not have a limit on promotional play deductions in their first full year of operations. After that, promotional play deductions are capped at 20% of the prior year’s taxable win.

Sports betters, both retail and mobile, do win.

Winnings paid to players in February in Maryland totaled $299.2 million, the vast majority of it paid to mobile sports betting app users. The hold — handle minus prizes paid — was $40.2 million in February.

Maryland collects a 15% tax on sports wagering, which totaled $2.8 million in February and, since the inception of Maryland’s sports wagering program in December 2021, has totaled $11.5 million.

The Super Bowl did not generate a spike in sports wagering in Maryland in February. Total sports betting was down 23.1% compared to January.

“Surprisingly, sports betting wagers were down (in February),” said BetMaryland gaming analyst Dru James. “Many sportsbooks were likely expecting record-breaking numbers in February in response to Super Bowl 57, but it seems that bettors were not as interested as initially anticipated.”

James added, “March will be a better month for wagers. With nearly two weeks of March Madness, there will be plenty of opportunities to make up for the losses seen in February.”

The NCAA tournament is the second-most lucrative sporting event of the year, behind the Super Bowl.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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