Minorities And Women Have An Edge In Maryland Sports Betting Market

With 100 or so sports betting licenses soon up for grabs, Maryland may have the most generous sports betting law in the nation. Add prioritization of sports betting licenses for minority and women-owned businesses, and Maryland’s law may also be the nation’s most inclusive. 

The 2021 law requires the state to encourage participation of Black and minority or women-owned businesses in Maryland’s sports betting market when it launches later this year. 

It is reportedly the nation’s first state law to give weight to minority and women-owned businesses as part of the sportsbook licensing process. 

Requirements for minority and women-owned business participation under the legislation found in House Bill 940 include: 

  • Maximizing the ability of minorities, women, and minority and women-owned businesses to participate in sports betting — including through ownership of licensed sports betting entities — to the extent allowed by law. 
  • Creation of a Small, Minority-Owned, and Women-Owned Business Sports Wagering Assistance Fund to provide grants or loans to small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses entering the sports betting industry. Assistance will be funded by 5% of fees collected from large sports betting operators including professional sports venues and casinos. 
  • A good-faith effort by sports betting license applicants seeking investors to interview potential minority and women investors and submit documentation of that effort to SWARC (the state Sports Wagering Application Review Commission).

Maryland House Delegate Darryl Barnes — the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland — said in a May 25 op-ed that the bill’s minority and women-owned business provisions “would allow sports wagering applicants with significant Black or woman ownership to be granted early access to the Maryland marketplace ahead of applicants that do not have any Black or woman ownership.” 

“The Black Agenda”

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones of Baltimore pushed for the minority participation requirement when she successfully sponsored House Bill 940  during the 2021 legislative session.

It was one of several bills geared toward women and Maryland’s nearly 2 million Black residents considered last session under what Jones referred to as “The Black Agenda” — a platform that also included police reform, diversification of corporate boards, and equitable funding for historically-black colleges and universities. 

“This year we specifically looked at legislation through the lens of inclusion. That’s why I’m particularly proud that we will sign legislation that opens up opportunities in the industry of sports betting for minorities and women,” Jones said at the May 18 bill signing of HB 940. “This was a valid issue that overwhelmingly passed in this last election cycle.” 

Barnes described sports betting opportunities made possible for minorities through HB 940 as another step toward “righting historical wrongs that had for too long gone unsolved.” 

“The General Assembly has made it abundantly clear: it supports equity,” the Prince George’s County lawmaker wrote in his op-ed last month. “By providing an opportunity to sports wagering applicants with significant Black and women ownership, it has done just that.”

What’s Next for Maryland Sports Betting

The application process for a Maryland sports betting license hasn’t started. Regulations are still being drafted, which puts any firm application date on hold. Numerous sources, however, have said they expect Maryland sports betting to launch during this year’s NFL season. 

Once licensing begins, the process will be twofold: licensees will be vetted by SWARC and issued by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission. SWARC is responsible for ensuring that effort is made to “achieve racial, ethinic, and gender diversity” in the sports betting approval process. 

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission states on its sports wagering webpage that licensing updates will be posted when they are available. 

Most of the 100 or so licenses expected to be issued by Maryland — or 60 licenses — are reserved for mobile and online sports betting. Remaining licenses will be issued to large and small venues, including the state’s major professional sports stadiums, for retail sports betting. 

HB 940 received final passage by the Maryland General Assembly on April 12. Sports betting made it to the legislature for consideration after Maryland voters amended the state constitution to allow sports betting in Nov. 2020.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Maryland Sharp. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.