State Lawmakers Consider Adding Various MD Sports Betting Guardrails

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MD sports betting

Maryland sports betting operators could soon be prevented from compensation-based signup incentives with state schools.

The House Committee on Ways and Means voted unanimously Thursday to advance a Maryland sports betting guardrail bill (S. 620). It would require all college sports betting partnerships in Maryland to be made public and prevents some terms that have disgruntled lawmakers.

Bill sponsor Sen. Shelly Hettleman told LSR she sees “no red flags” ahead for the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate earlier this month after an identical companion bill (H. 802) passed unanimously in the House. Both will be eligible for amendments and read again in the final days of Maryland’s legislative session next week before they can move to Gov. Wes Moore for signature.

Extra MD sports betting protections 

The Maryland bills would require PointsBet and the University of Maryland to disclose all details of their sponsorship agreement. It would also prevent compensation based on the number of new users a school signs up. 

Such an incentive had been a part of PointsBet’s $1.6 million deal with Colorado, though it was restructured in January amid backlash.

A spokesperson with PointsBet said the Maryland partnership is free of any incentives, though they declined to comment more on its future. Sen. Hettlemen added that the University of Maryland supports the legislation.

Sportsbooks already ditching college deals

The news comes a day after LSR reported that PointsBet and the University of Colorado are prematurely ending their sponsorship agreement.

The deal announced in 2020 was the first public arrangement between a sportsbook and a US college. It involved advertising the sportsbook in and around collegiate sports venues and over campus airwaves.

Since then, PointsBet has inked similar deals with the University of Maryland, as did Caesars with LSU and Michigan State. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has taken aim at the partnerships in letters to those companies and schools, and on Tuesday, the industry lobby barred its members from such agreements.

More Maryland sports betting vetting?

The Maryland committee also heard testimony on a bill (S. 621) to allow the state to vet sports betting touts, affiliates and content creators that work with licensed legal sportsbooks.

Under the bill that unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month, independent evaluators would audit commercial relationships between operators and affiliates that discuss betting strategies to ensure fair and accurate information is being presented to the consumer.

Little testimony at hearing

One of those evaluators, SharpRank, has been working closely with the bill sponsor Sen. Craig Zucker. It was the only group that testified at the hearing.

“We focus on the content itself feeding into a sportsbook. That could be in-house content, an influencer paid to give out advice, whatever the case might be,” SharpRank CEO Chris Adams said. “With respect to offers or free bets, we have no intention of looking at those.”

Legislative counsel for BetMGM, which opposed the bill at an earlier hearing, was absent Thursday. The operator previously voiced concerns over too many layers of vetting, noting Maryland took longer than any other state to implement sports betting after legalizing it.

Guardrails are proactive, bill sponsor says

“There’s been a lot of confusion around this and there have been bad actors in other states. We have not seen that in Maryland, this is just being more proactive, making sure that we have guardrails in place,” Zucker said, adding that SharpRank would not be the only evaluator.

The committee could hold a vote on the bill as early as Friday. Maryland’s legislature runs through April 10.