Maryland Sports Betting Licenses Require Operators to Develop Diversity Plan

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Maryland Sports Betting Licenses Require Operators to Develop Diversity Plan

Maryland sports betting licenses once issued will require approved operators to develop and submit a diversity plan to the state within 30 days of receipt of their sportsbook permit.

Maryland sports betting sportsbook SWARC
Maryland sports betting sportsbook SWARC
Maryland welcomes travelers along US Route 15 at the state border with Virginia. Maryland will soon welcome mobile sports betting operators to the state so long as they come with a diversity plan. (Image: Casino.org)

Maryland lawmakers sought to deliver equity through its regulation of sports betting. But that goal has been criticized for greatly delaying the launch of mobile sportsbooks in the state.

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) was tasked with developing a sportsbook licensing process that would assure that persons and groups who have been disparaged in the past be given preferential consideration in applying for one of the state’s 60 online sports wagering privileges. But a SWARC-commissioned third-party “disparity analysis” had been delaying the special gaming commission from moving forward with reviewing online sports gambling applications.

That changed in July amid criticism from Governor Larry Hogan (R) and other state officials who urged SWARC to expedite the mobile sports betting application process. SWARC that month opted to remove “race and gender-based license criteria.”

Diversity Plan Needed

Last week, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review signed off on SWARC’s grading plan for mobile sportsbook applicants. Once SWARC formally implements the regulations, which is expected to occur during the commission’s September 9 meeting, the mobile licensing application period will officially commence.

One condition of the updated guidelines is that any mobile sports betting license recipient will need to tell SWARC within 30 days of license receipt how the company plans to improve or maintain diversity within its organization.

Each applicant must agree to make a good faith effort to meet the diversity objectives outlined in its Diversity Plan and to periodically report diversity metrics, which, along with the Diversity Plan, may be made available to the public,” SWARC’s application rules mandate.

SWARC says a mobile sportsbook operator should detail strategies “for obtaining a diverse group of owners, investors, employees, and contractors.” The state will ask its forthcoming online sportsbook licensees to detail a diversity plan “in narrative form” that promotes equality through diversity.

SWARC explains that diversity includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, disability status, and veteran status.

Licenses Secure Once Issued

Along with approved online operators, Maryland’s sports betting application commission is forcing facility sportsbooks to also develop and achieve diversity goals. But state officials concede that if an operator fails to do so, there is nothing in the sports betting law that would justify a license being revoked only on diversity grounds.

There’s no opportunity of cancelation of the license. The license has been awarded,” explained David Stamper, assistant attorney general for the Maryland General Assembly.

Maryland is charging $250,000 for in-person retail sports betting licensees. For fully online books, the operators must pay the state a one-time $500,000 fee. Each year, facility sportsbooks are required to pay a $50,000 renewal, while online permits renew at $100,0000 annually.

Most land-based and online sportsbook revenue will be subjected to a 15% state tax. The flat rate will be slightly less at 13% for small businesses that are granted in-person and/or online sports betting inclusion.

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