MD House Speaker Names Appointees For Sports Betting Licensing Committee

Posted on June 24, 2021 - Last Updated on July 19, 2021

Regardless of whether or not it’s a necessary or sound policy, a newly created Maryland application review commission will decide who gets a license for legal Maryland sports betting. The positions on the commission are appointed instead of elected, and the first two appointees are now known quantities.

MD House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones has fulfilled her duty by naming her picks. While the two individuals have experience in business and government, they seemingly lack expertise when it comes to the actual subject matter.

Who are the first Maryland application review commission members?

Marylanders, especially those who live in Howard County, might recognize one of the two names quite readily. Frank Turner is a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He represented District 13 from 1995-2019. Other than serving in the House, he was an assistant professor of business law and legal environment at Morgan State University.

As far as brushes with the gaming industry go, Turner filled several relevant committee roles during his time in the MD House. Those included:

  • Member of the Gaming Law and Regulation Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, 1995-98
  • Member of the Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion in 2012
  • House Chair of the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight, 2017-19

A review of past campaign donors of $600 or more to Turner’s election bids reveals a few but mostly tangential connections to gambling. Those listings are:

  • Atlantic Bingo Supply contributed seven gifts totaling $1,150
  • The Maryland Horse Breeders Association made five donations adding up to $950
  • Ocean Downs made two payments coming out to $750

The other appointee is Cassandra Stevenson, a senior vice president and head of corporate tax at Raymond James Financial. In that role, she is responsible for overseeing the firm’s compliance with federal and local tax regulations.

While both of these appointees certainly have the credentials to speak with expert voices in their respective fields, a question remains valid. Can either speak with the same expertise on the matter of what makes a license applicant qualified to run a sportsbook?

How this has panned out elsewhere

Another state went the route of giving sports betting regulatory duties to people who have never worked for a sports-betting operator. Those decisions have produced some less-than-desirable results so far.

When Tennessee first legalized sports betting, it gave regulatory powers to its state lottery just as MD has. It also created a new advisory council, with no regulatory powers but merely in the role the name suggests, purely advisory. The Lottery’s executive board had no experience in sports betting at the time.

Also in keeping with this comparison, state lawmakers appointed all the members of the advisory council. None of the eventual members has any experience in the gambling industry whatsoever, much less specifically in sports betting. Like Stevenson and Turner, their backgrounds were in the business and legal sectors.

Since then, the advisory council hired an experienced consultant then ignored her advice on a payout cap. More recently, the lottery board bungled a disciplinary measure against a licensee. In the midst of that, the TN Lottery‘s executive director resigned from her position.

That, among other factors, has led to lawmakers in that state moving to give the advisory council regulatory powers and take those duties away from the lottery board. Could this be a bad omen for sports betting regulators in MD? There are some important things to note.

Key differences between MD and TN

One differentiating factor is that this MD committee is solely responsible for reviewing then making decisions on license applications. The MD Lottery and Gaming Control Commission will handle all other matters.

Also, one spot on this committee will be filled by either the MD Lottery Commission chair, E. Randolph Marriner, or someone he appoints. That begs the question of if Marriner is going to serve on this committee and the commission is going to be involved in regulating sports betting in every other way, why delegate license reviews to a different body?

Regardless of the answer to that question, Marriner’s presence could put another person with experience regulating gaming on the committee. Also, with four more seats open right now, it’s also possible that Gov. Larry Hogan and/or the MD Senate could also appoint members with relevant experience.

Finally, Stevenson’s and Turner’s lack of experience working in the gambling industry isn’t a bellwether of poor performances in this role in and of itself. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have people on the committee with business law and tax law expertise. Hopefully, there will be room for that and people with expertise in actually running a sportsbook.

Photo by Dreamsite / Sean Pavone
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