Senator: Minority Inclusion Key To Passing Online Casino Legislation In Maryland

Written By T.J. McBride on August 3, 2023
Maryland online casino bill

The Maryland legislature is approaching the idea of legalizing online casinos.

State Senator Ron Watson’s Maryland online casino legislation known as Senate Bill 267 will carry over into 2024 where he hopes it will be passed, but there is a major issue to contend with first.

Before expanding gambling again, a plan for minority inclusion must be hammered out.

When Maryland legalized sports betting, minorities were left out until it was too late. This time around, Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus and Senator Watson are making sure that mistake is not repeated.

Maryland sports betting legislation ‘a dismal failure’ from minority perspective

The sports betting industry is thriving in Maryland since being legalized and regulated, but there are lessons that can be learned despite the success.

In June, Maryland sportsbooks took in $243.8 million in online sports wagers despite June being one of the slowest months of the year. The Maryland sports betting marketplace is alive and well.

That does not mean the profits from legalized mobile sports betting have been enjoyed by all, as Watson (D-Prince George’s County) made clear when he spoke to PlayUSA.

“I thought the sports betting piece from a minority perspective was a dismal failure. What they came up with was something called Class B licenses for entities that made less than $2 million in revenue and had a certain number of employees. But it’s not profitable.”

Watson outlined why a Class B license is not profitable which mostly had to do with the timing in which the licenses were awarded.

“Well, it took so long to roll out the Class B licenses and the brick-and-mortar casinos had such a head start, we missed that curve. The people who were interested in sports betting have already signed up, so now there’s nobody for this little entity to sign up.”

Without prioritizing minority inclusion, these are the type of mistakes that are made. That example is specifically why Watson and the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus are taking their time to learn from past missteps before pushing through any online casino bills.

Maryland online casinos must find more inclusive solutions before launching

There is no definitive road map to properly include minorities into a new and highly profitable industry. Without a guide, Watson is having trouble overcoming some of the hurdles in front of him which is why online casino legislation is not expected to reach ballots until 2024 at the earliest. Impacts of the industry are currently being studied further ahead of any potential vote.

Watson told PlayUSA that finding someone who can help with that aspect would help push online casinos through the legislative process much more effectively.

“If I can find somebody who has a handle on that piece, that would break so many logjams. Maryland has the biggest legislative black caucus in the country. Very loud, very vocal, and if they get behind stuff we can move things pretty quickly.”

Still, even if Watson does not have all of the answers right now, he knows solutions are required to move forward and he is taking the time required to properly address all concerns.

“With sports betting, it caused all kinds of problems because there wasn’t enough thoughtfulness up front on how this would work. You can’t say we’re going to hold this percentage for minority businesses because minority businesses historically have challenges with access to capital.

“I want true partnerships with minority businesses to the extent we can get them, and we just have to figure out how to make it happen.”

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

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