Sports fandom in Maryland has long come with a gambling chaser.
Back when local television sports segments were more than quick-reads of the pro teams’ scores, Baltimore broadcasting legend Vince Bagli would be sure to fit in a Pick-6 from Pimlico or Laurel before handing back off to the anchor. His partner at WBAL, Chris Thomas, unashamedly would slip on a sombrero and offer NFL picks, played and even owned race horses, and once walked off set mistakenly thinking he’d just hit the state lottery numbers Channel 11 had announced.
And then there was Barry “The Stallion” Streib and “Bingo, Baby, Bingo” coming at you with picks from a bar in Ocean City.
Decades later, with legal sports betting launching online and through mobile devices in Maryland, the citizenry seems ready to join the modern gambling world.
Broadcaster Jeremy Conn, who in his Twitter bio identifies himself unapologetically as a gambler and proves it with “Good coaches win but great coaches cover!,” feels the crackle on the 105.7 FM The Fan’s Big Bad Morning Show he co-hosts weekdays.
“I think people are excited about it because we’ve been waiting for a while now in Maryland,” he told Gaming Today. “Once it got approved, then we were hearing this had to happen, that had to happen, ‘We don’t have the technology.’
“But the long and short of it is, this is going to be fun. Once the casinos opened up and people were going in there and dealing with long lines and dealing with kiosks … everybody’s going to be able to go bet from the comfort of their own home. So I think fans are really excited. I know I am. I’ve been waiting for this for a while now.”
Multiple online sportsbooks soft-launched on Monday, and DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, FanDuel, PointsBet, Barstool, and BetRivers are expected to go live at 9 a.m., on Nov. 23, conveniently at the top of the final hour of Conn’s Wednesday show with Ed Norris and Rob Long.
Sports betting was legalized in Maryland in November 2020 and the first retail bet was placed last December. Bagli and Thomas are both deceased, and a large amount of the demographic most likely to place online sports bets have assuredly never heard of them. But both were part of a process that included voters approving the enterprise through a referendum.
Conn Has Long Been Baltimore’s Gambling Guide
Conn has been in radio for 22 years, dissecting lines and recounting the glory or agony of bets won or lost, on multiple shows and time slots in Baltimore. His efforts far pre-date the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, which made legalizing sports betting the decision of individual states. Currently, 36 American jurisdictions have legalized it and are in some stage of implementation.
The Maryland mobile launch feels a long time coming.
“I think fans were angry because we felt like, not to use a sports term, they kept moving the goalpost on us,” Conn explained. “They’re like, ‘Hey, everything’s going to be going before the NFL season,’ and the NFL season and started it was, ‘Hey, we’re hoping to get it before Christmas.'”
“I’ll take what we can get once it’s here. But yeah, there were a lot of fans that were upset. I can’t tell you how many emails or I leave my Insta or my Twitter mentions open and you can DM me, how many times I get something asking ‘When is gambling open, when is it opening?'”
Conn flipped $75,000 from a quarter-million DraftKings payout to invest in a small sportsbook start-up. He knows the regulation process, but he’s no regulator. But as one of the main faces — and voices — of legal gambling in Baltimore, he’s become a bit of a liaison to a legislative process for his audience. They can now all stop driving so far to make legal bets, which was undoubtedly heightening the agitation. Maryland is completely encased in sports betting jurisdictions, with the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware live. All but Delaware offer mobile and online wagering. In excess of 90% of sports bets nationally are placed on phones, computers, or tablets.
“I think it’s going to be great because so many people I’ve talked to were driving to Delaware, were driving across the PA lines just so they could bet on their mobile app,” Conn said. “I’d even done it a couple times where I went to a rest stop up in Shrewsbury just so I could place a few wagers and it’s a little ridiculous to have to go through that.
“I’m just happy that that money’s gonna stay here in Maryland.”
That includes Conn’s gas money. Shrewsbury, Pa., is 30ish miles from the northern edge of the Baltimore Beltway, up Interstate 83.
Resurgent Orioles Could be Maryland Sports Betting Darlings
Oriole Park at Camden Yards will eventually sport a SuperBook Sports retail-parlor-style lounge, a fact that seems to have landed as less sacrilegious with fans than the retro-fitting of the left-field wall. They’ll be able to make bets from their seat or Eutaw Street now anyway. And with the team featuring a host of promising young players and offering hope for the first time in years, Conn expects Orioles future bets to be a popular choice among the locals with betting opportunities in their hands.
“One of the things that when people would travel out to Vegas, and you were from Baltimore, it was the cliche thing to do is go drop $25, 50, $100 on your favorite team, the Ravens to win the Super Bowl, 20-to-1,” he said. “The Orioles, for the longest time now, it’s been a super long shot, but now their odds have to go up. If you believe what they say, they’re going to spend some money in the off-season. So I think that’ll be an interesting ticket that people will buy.”
They can talk all about it on Wednesday morning.