The visit to Annapolis, confirmed by six lawmakers who attended, suggests that Maryland is still in the running for the stadium, a possibility that seemed remote after land-swap negotiations with Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration fell apart last year.
The team has sought a new facility in the District at the site of its old home, RFK Stadium, but the city has not been able to gain control of the property from the federal government. The team has also explored possibilities in Virginia. The team’s lease keeps it at FedEx Field through 2027.
In a meeting with Prince George’s County legislators who represent Landover, Snyder pitched his vision to redevelop the area as a year-round, mixed-use destination that could include hotels and offices.
Two lawmakers said Snyder told them that he would finance construction of the stadium and associated buildings without asking for public help — aside from acquiring the gambling license.
“It was a businessman making a commitment to Maryland . . . who was willing to put his own money into it,” said Del. Erek L. Barron (D), chairman of the Prince George’s delegation. “In Prince George’s we need to be doing everything we can do to promote jobs and economic development. I think any businessman singing that music, we should be listening to him.”
Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard), chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, attended Snyder’s meeting with Senate leaders and said Snyder was the first professional sports team owner in Maryland to approach lawmakers about securing a gambling license.
Snyder did not meet with Hogan (R) on Tuesday, but Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said the team owner had expressed interest in obtaining a gambling license in past meetings with the governor, dating back to fall 2017.
Hogan has “no position” on Snyder’s proposal, Ricci said. “We’re in listening mode.”
Sean DeBarbieri, a team spokesman, declined to comment on Snyder’s proposal.
The Maryland General Assembly is considering expanding its casino gambling industry to include sports betting, part of a bid to help raise money for public education.
Any expansion now requires a constitutional referendum, and a measure could be placed on the November ballot. Lawmakers this week proposed changing the state’s constitution so that the General Assembly could expand gambling in the future without having to ask voters to decide.
Until now, discussion has centered on whether horse racetracks would join casinos as potential recipients of a limited number of sports betting licenses, as well as whether patrons could place bets via phones. Lawmakers are also considering whether to allow gambling on video games and other esports.
The possibility of a gambling establishment at a future stadium could open a fraught line of debate over whether Maryland’s other sports venues should also get gambling licenses.
Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino, for example, is just blocks from both M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards, the respective homes of the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles, and may not want to have those sites as competitors for sports betting business.
While other professional leagues have signed deals with bookmakers and aggressively embraced sports betting — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver publicly began advocating for it in 2014 — the NFL has not done so.
Patrick M. Gleason, director of public relations for the Ravens, said the team has “nothing to share publicly on this matter right now.” An Orioles representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Several professional sports facilities in the District already have been approved for possible sports betting operations, including Nationals Park, Audi Field, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast Washington and Capital One Arena. Two have reportedly negotiated deals with established gambling brands, but as of earlier this month, only one application had been filed — for a betting complex at Capital One Arena with the British bookmaker William Hill.
One Maryland lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss one of the private meetings, said he was slightly caught off guard by Snyder’s proposal, especially since the NFL has been slow to embrace sports gambling.
“It was the first time it crossed my mind that the stadiums would have any interest,” the legislator said. “I was surprised to think, given the history of professional sports and gambling, they would do it within the same venue.”
“He is willing to build his own stadium, but he wants sports betting to be a part of that,” said the lawmaker, who described Snyder’s pitch as a “veiled threat” to go to Virginia if he does not get a license.
“It wasn’t too high-pressured,” the lawmaker said of the discussion. “Most of the people in the room were Ravens fans, so it sort of fell on deaf ears.”
Another attendee summed up the team owner’s message as: “If you don’t give it, I’m leaving. If you give it, maybe I’ll stay.”
Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who as Senate president brokered the deals that brought gambling and casinos to Maryland, said “extending sports betting beyond casinos and racetracks would be a very difficult sell. It’s like printing money — everybody wants a piece of the action.”
Miller did not attend the meeting with Snyder.
Del. Jazz M. Lewis (D-Prince George’s), who represents Landover, said he was pleased to hear Synder’s commitment to the FedEx Field location, if he decides to stay in Maryland.
Other lawmakers also appeared intrigued.
“If he wants to build it with his own money, then great — whatever it takes to succeed,” said Del. Carl L. Anderton Jr. (R-Wicomico), who was not in the meeting. He was among several lawmakers who reacted strongly to the prospect that Snyder would threaten to leave the state unless he is awarded a gambling license.
“We certainly should not be held hostage by an owner,” he said. “We’ll call his bluff. Go.”
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is holding discussions about the expansion of gambling, Guzzone said, and “we’re taking everybody’s opinion very seriously.”
“We’re in discussions with everybody who is interested, and I look at [the football team] like everyone else,” Guzzone said. “We have to make sense of what is best for the state.”