There was plenty of positive testimony on Maryland sports betting Thursday, but those looking to get involved want more opportunities.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones introduced HB 940 to the Ways and Means Committee with three main objectives:
- Creating a fair framework
- Increasing education funding
- Maximizing meaningful opportunities for everyone, including minority-owned businesses
While many were pleased with the inclusivity of the bill, local businessowners were left wondering if there’s enough room for them.
Voters approved MD sports betting through a referendum in November, so the focus now turns toward how the market will look.
More online licenses in Maryland sports betting bill?
HB 940 sets aside retail licenses for gaming and non-gaming entities, but the mobile licenses are a bit different.
There are a total of 13 retail licenses available. Eight Class A licenses are reserved for the state’s six casinos and two racetrack operators. The other five Class B licenses are reserved for a competitive bidding process.
There are just 10 mobile licenses, though, and they’re all up for competitive bid. That rubbed some local minority-owned business entities the wrong way.
Tony Jones, chief strategy officer at Delmock Technologies which operates off-track betting facility Riverboat on the Potomac, said more mobile licenses are needed to ensure the kind of inclusion the state wants to achieve:
“We believe the number of mobile licenses has to really climb up. Our major concern is with six casinos and two or three horse tracks, if there’s only 10 mobile licenses one would have to believe that those casinos will get a mobile license, one would have to believe two or three racetracks would get a mobile license.
“Then you’d have the minority firms fighting amongst one another for a very small piece of the pie, and that’s not what I think the state wants to have happen.”
Others echo call for more licenses
The Maryland State Fair isn’t guaranteed a license and wants a better shot at one.
“We really have a great location, a great facility here,” said Andy Cashman, GM of the Maryland State Fair. “It’s 140 years old and we’ve kept up with a lot of great things but there’s a lot of capital improvements and things we could certainly use the sports betting money to help us to survive and to improve our facility and grounds.”
Jack Lavoie of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs minor league baseball team also lamented the number of available licenses.
The team would be interested in both a retail and mobile sports betting license. The revenue would help keep minor league baseball viable in the state and help with stadium repairs, he said.
“In reading the original bill, we were disappointed that it seemed that between the six casinos and three racetracks it would be very difficult for small operators such as ours or Mr. Jones, or the fairground or others to have inclusion in this,” Lavoie said.
Financial details of HB 940
What an operator pays for their license will depend on what kind of license they get:
- Casinos and tracks will pay a $250,000 application fee for their Class A license with an annual $50,000 license fee.
- It will cost $50,000 to apply for one of the five Class B competitively bid retail licenses. Those operators will pay $10,000 annually for their license.
- Hopeful mobile operators will pay $500,000 to apply and $100,000 annually for the license.
All licensees will have to pay a license renewal fee every five years that’s equal to 1% of the operator’s average annual gross sports betting revenue over the past five years.
Both retail and online sports betting revenue will be taxed at 15% with an escalator for mobile operators. Once a mobile sportsbook’s annual revenue hits $5 million, any additional revenue will be taxed at 17.5%.