Come One, Come All For Changes At MD Sports Betting Senate Hearing

Posted on March 26, 2021
MD sports betting
Posted By on March 26, 2021

Plenty of people testified in support of a proposed MD sports betting bill – as long as it’s changed how they want.

HB 940 had its first hearing in the Senate before the Budget and Taxation Committee Thursday afternoon. No one was directly against the bill but many wanted to make sure their needs were met before passage.

Sen. Craig Zucker suggested to LSR changes could be coming to the bill but none were formally offered at Thursday’s hearing.

Sports betting in Maryland received voter approval in November, which left legislators tasked with crafting the enabling bill. While there’s nothing that says sports betting has to be legalized this year, it is expected to be.

Kerry Watson of MGM Resorts even suggested its sports betting app BetMGM could be live in the state before the NFL season begins in September.

OTBs want in on MD sports betting legislation

Nearly all of the suggested changes from those testifying centered on licensing. HB 940 currently calls for 37 licenses, which is up from its original 23:

  • 12 Class A licenses for casinos, horse tracks and stadiums.
  • 10 Class B licenses for local businesses.
  • 15 licenses for mobile.

Alyse Cohen, the sole owner of off-track betting location Longshots, called for the state’s four independent OTBs to be guaranteed a retail license should they want one. Cohen later added the viability of a retail location without a mobile license is “diminished.”

She also wants to see a 10-to-15-mile geofence around non-urban and less-population dense locations like Longshots to protect from “unwarranted competition.” The bill already creates an exclusivity zone around retail sportsbooks of up to 15 miles depending on the location.

Riverboat on the Potomac, which operates as a Maryland OTB but docks in Virginia, is included in the Class A licenses.

Electronic bingo establishments want in too

Michael Arrington, a lobbyist with Capitol Connections, also wants a Class A license for the state’s two electronic bingo locations.

Electronic bingo machines are similar to slot machines aside from the paper receipts printed each spin. The establishments are already licensed by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission. Representatives from both Bingo World and Rod ‘N’ Reel also testified in support of the bill.

“Every component of our core business is similar to the operations of those entities currently covered in HB 940 as Class A,” Arrington said. “It makes absolutely no sense that we should not be included as Class A as well.”

What about mobile MD sports betting licenses?

There was also plenty of testimony about those 15 mobile licenses and whether that is the right number.

John Pappas representing iDEA Growth, Malik Edwards of Bet On Black LLC, and Bob Greenlee of IG Acquisition Corp. all want to see more mobile licenses. Both Pappas and Edwards called for at least an equal amount to the total retail licenses – 22 for now. Greenlee wants at least 25 licenses.

On the other hand, Rob Garagiola, speaking on behalf of Cordish Cos. Live! casino, asked for 12 mobile licenses.

“If you look at other states like Pennsylvania, for example, that has double the Maryland population, they have 12 active skins all through its casinos,” Garagiola said. “… It is far easier to add more skins later if the Maryland market can withstand more skins than to have too many skins at the start with a diluted market, less revenues and potentially failing mobile licensees.

Garagiola and Watson both called for casinos to automatically get a mobile license as well.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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