Maryland’s sports betting industry is already breaking new ground. The state has passed a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore earlier this month that regulates sports betting content providers and influencers.
The law, which was formulated in SB Bill 621, says that sports betting influencers and any content creators who make picks and/or have formal relationships with operators must be audited by a licensed agency. The goal is to regulate content that purports to give sports betting advice.
Maryland is the first state to pass a law that regulates sports betting content creators and social media influencers in any way.
New Maryland law will regulate sports betting content creators
The sponsors of the bill, and the lobbying group led by Chris Adams of SharpRank, believe the law will help legal sportsbooks in Maryland establish themselves as reputable entities when compared to the illegal offshore market. Adams sees potential for problems similar to what we’ve seen in the financial sector.
“We’re trying to help avoid what happened with FTX, using people of influence to funnel the public into a topic they don’t understand,” Adams said.
The new law requires a third-party to audit content providers and sports betting experts online to evaluate the information they share. It remains to be seen if this type of regulation will impact the way sportsbooks operate with partners.
PlayMaryland reached out to several sports betting operators for comment, but did not receive a response.
Maryland law auditing sports betting influencers first of its kind
So far, no data exists to show how regulations on sports betting content creators will help the industry. Adams and his group tried to get a similar law passed in West Virginia in 2022, but it failed when lawmakers said they saw no evidence that it would positively impact the sports betting landscape.
The law in Maryland comes after a protracted process to launch sports betting in the state. In-person retail sportsbooks opened in the Old Line State in December of 2021, but online sportsbooks didn’t debut until November of 2022. The market has been successful and popular with residents.
In its first full month with mobile sports betting, Maryland sportsbooks reported $497 million in total handle (wagers accepted). That figure rivaled much larger states such as Michigan and Tennessee. In April of 2023 that total was $313 million, with $3.7 million being paid to the state by sports betting operators in taxes.
With so much money at stake as operators carve up market share, sportsbooks are using promotional play and relying on affiliates and influencers to deliver new customers. The Maryland law aims to protect consumers from potential misleading content. However, there has not yet been an issue elsewhere with fraudulent content in the legal sports betting market in the U.S., which continues to blossom following the crucial 2018 US Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for states to legalize the activity.
Sports betting affiliates typically have some or all of their activities regulated. Those companies usually have website networks which attract traffic seeking information in sportsbook promo offers, odds, and betting terms and conditions, as well as regulatory affairs. PlayMaryland for example, has affiliate agreements with sports betting operators. For the most part, these affiliate sites are dedicated to providing accurate information to assist consumers in jurisdictions where sports betting is legal. Some states, like Massachusetts and Ohio, have been diligent in ensuring that affiliates and other sports betting content creators do not use misleading language such as “free bets” or “risk-free bets.”
Any emerging market will undoubtedly experience growing pains. All markets, especially those that deal with activities that can also lead to addiction, are going to attract regulation. Rules governing truth and accuracy in advertising also exist for food, alcohol, and tobacco products, to name a few. While some consumers may be frustrated by the slew of advertisements for sportsbooks, the sports betting industry so far has largely attempted to be responsible in messaging.
The landmark law in Maryland only serves to codify that practice.