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Maryland’s Legal Sports Betting Diversity Initiative

by sensie
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Maryland sports betting was approved in 2020 for both retail and mobile sports betting. Retail betting launched in December 2021 but the process to launch mobile sports betting has been a very slow process. 

The expectation is that mobile sports betting in Maryland will launch before the end of the year, likely in early December but it could be as early as late November. 

Sports betting operators have to go through both the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) and Maryland Lottery and Gaming (MLG) to receive a mobile sports betting license. 

SWARC’s main task is to determine whether an applicant is suitable for a sports wagering license. With that, they are also ensuring that each licensee has a Diversity Plan. It’s important to Maryland and SWARC to ensure ethnic, racial, and gender diversity when it comes to sports betting in the state. 

With the emphasis on diversity in the industry they have created the Diversity Plan requirement and a Sports Wagering Assistance Fund. 

Diversity Plan

In September, SWARC added an addendum to the mobile sports wagering license application that requires each applicant to submit a Diversity Plan. Each entity that earns a license must submit the Diversity Plan within 30 days of gaining the license. 

According to the addendum, the plan must consist of “a detailed written plan that includes objectives, timetables, and evaluation metrics”. 

SWARC describes diversity as including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability status, socioeconomic status, and veteran status. 

The addendum lists six requirements that each Diversity Plan must meet in order to be accepted. 

  1. Strategies for having a diverse group of investors, owners, employees, and contractors. 
  2. Diversity objectives and ways of tracking achievement
  3. Diversity-related outreach or events 
  4. Proposed benchmarks and timelines for achieving each of the diversity objectives outlined
  5. Status of each owner, investor, employee if available 
  6. any information that demonstrates commitment to gaining a diverse ownership, investment and employment group

It also states that every applicant must agree “to make a good faith effort” to achieve the objectives and periodically report metrics. 

Once the Plans are submitted SWARC will then review them and notify the applicants of any problem areas with the proposed Plans. If the Plans do not meet all the requirements that are listed then the applicant will have 30 days after being notified to revise them. 

At some point, these Diversity Plans and the diversity metrics should be available to the public. 

Sports Wagering Assistance Fund

SWARC also developed the Small, Minority-Owned Business Sports Wagering Assistance Fund (SWAF). 

The steps to getting a sports wagering license and the operation of sportsbooks are expensive so the goal of the fund is to help small, women, and minority-owned businesses with these expenses. For a small business to qualify they have to have 50 or fewer employees. 

The fund is created by five percent of each Class A sports wagering licensing fee. Then the SWAF can be used as grants or loans to those small, minority-owned, or women-owned businesses. 

Each grant or loan can be used for assistance with the license application fees, assistance with sports wagering operations, or training to support participation in the industry. 

The fund puts the priority on applicants applying for B1 or B2 sports wagering facility licenses but it can also be used for applicants pursuing a mobile sports wagering license. 

A grant for the licensing fee or background check can be up to 50% of the fee. Grant amounts for licensing or background checks can range from $800-$25,000. 

Grants for operating support can be up to $50,000 and can be used for things like software, equipment, web design and development, marketing, and more. It cannot be used for rent, utility bills, or staff salaries. 

The Sports Wagering Training Support Grant can also be for up to $50,000 and supports various types of training within the industry. 

All of the applicants and grants must be approved by SWARC. 

Both the Diversity Plan and the SWAF are part of Maryland trying to give businesses in the state a fair chance against some of the bigger sportsbooks in the industry. 

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