MD Sports Betting Public Comments Tackle League Data, Launch Dates, Minors

Posted on September 22, 2021

A week of meetings in preparation for eventual Maryland sports betting included public comments from interested parties on Wednesday.

A day prior, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director John Martin told the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission that MD sports betting should launch in “late fall.”

The SWARC is currently reviewing applications for the 17 pre-named entities, including MD casinos and horse racing tracks, named in sports betting legislation. The board of appointees eventually could award up to 90 additional competitively bid licenses.

However, before Maryland could usher in dozens of operators for one of the nation’s most competitive markets, there’s plenty of work to be done.

And Wednesday’s meeting for public comments was part of the process.

Public comments include MLB/NBA/PGA representation

Maryland’s 30-day public-comment period began Aug. 27 and runs until Monday, Sept. 27. During the month, parties can submit their comments in writing via online form, email, or postal mail.

On Wednesday, they also had the opportunity to comment publicly.

And a few parties who are likely to jump headfirst into the nascent sports wagering market were happy to oblige.

Official league data among public comments

Marquest Meeks, senior counsel for Major League Baseball and the Office of the Commissioner, was the first speaker to weigh in at Wednesday’s meeting.

The MLB rep said he was also speaking on behalf of their unofficial partners at the NBA and PGA Tour. The three sports leagues have worked in unison to push for the use of official league data in states where sports betting is legalized.

Meeks also said he planned to submit written comments regarding consumer protections, as well sportsbooks working directly with sports leagues on integrity matters and subsequent investigations.

PointsBet wants a single launch date

Paul Hannon, senior SVP of Points Bets USA, which operates in seven US states, also spoke. Points Bet has a vested interest in MD sports betting because of its partnership with Riverboat on the Potomac.

The Colonial Beach, Virginia-based off-track betting (OTB) facility is one of four licensed satellite simulcast facilities for horse racing in Maryland, as well as an MD Lotto retailer. The OTB operates under Maryland gaming law because it’s located on the Potomac River, which is part of MD. Once patrons enter the doors from the Virginia parking lot, they’re legally on MD property.

Hannon and other speakers simply want to avoid a situation like the one stakeholders saw in Virginia with mobile betting. Because of its partnership with the Washington Football Team, FanDuel was able to launch ahead of all other VA sportsbook operators. That early launch on Jan. 21 has allowed FanDuel to maintain a market share of approximately 50% in the commonwealth.

Hannon wants to see all of the 17 pre-named entities in Maryland to be able to launch sports betting on the same date. More particularly, he wants to see a unified launch date if the state grants them mobile licenses in addition to retail licenses.

“This would not allow for any unfair advantage to any approved operator,” he said. “It would also provide equal treatment under the law including for minority business enterprises in the spirit of the law as passed.”

A focus on SWaM

A few speakers also addressed topics involving Small, Women-Owned, and Minority-Owned businesses (SWaM).

In fact, local businessman and DC Lottery figure Emmanuel Bailey stumped for a new license type beyond the current A1, A2, B1, and B2.

He suggested the adoption of a license class that would allow these minority businesses to offer self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) in bars, restaurants, and other similar businesses.

“I think that would go a long way in including (Minority Business Enterprises) in this landmark legislation,” he said.

One rep also suggested the rewording of language in the legislation to clarify that minors, when accompanied by adults, can remain in an OTB. Because Maryland OTBs resemble restaurants and sports bars more than they do a traditional sportsbooks, underage patrons are common.

Photo by AP / Ross D. Franklin
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