A detailed plan to include diversity and gender inclusivity into the application for prospective operators in Maryland got the green light from members of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission on Friday.
The committee, which is chaired by Thomas Brandt, is trying to fulfill its duty to allocate Maryland sportsbook apps licenses, while also honoring the state’s goal of boosting diversity and inclusion in the market.
With the unanimous “yes” vote, the diversity plan goes forward to the Maryland Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review, which consists of Maryland legislators and attorneys.
James Butler, who serves as the chief of staff and assistant deputy director of the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, said during Friday’s SWARC meeting the “yay” vote is a step forward for sports betting in Maryland.
Last month, the deputy director of the Lottery indicated mobile wagering could begin by next February’s Super Bowl, which would allow operators to get a small taste of NFL betting in Maryland.
“The other considerations are so right now we're waiting on the AELR committee to take a vote on our emergency regulations,” Butler said. “So, as soon as I hear back on those emergency regulations, I'll let the commission know. And then once that happens, then we can proceed to be releasing our application at a later date.”
What the Maryland Diversity Plan Items Include
The diversity plan SWARC members unanimously approved requires all sports wagering license applicants to submit an outline of how they plan on making a good faith effort to meet the diversity and inclusion metrics laid out in the bill, in addition to agreeing to report diversity metrics periodically, with all materials eventually made public upon submission.
Each license applicant will have to submit the following items as part of their diversity plan to receive sports betting licensure in Maryland:
- Strategies for a diverse group of ownership, investment, employees, and contractors
- Diversity objectives adopted by the applicant, and methods for tracking those objectives
- A plan for diversity-related outreach or events that the applicant will undertake to bolster its diversity in the aforementioned camps
- Proposed timelines and benchmarks for achieving the diversity objectives
- The diversity status of each owner, investor, employee, and contractor
- Any other information that demonstrates the applicant’s commitment to ownership, investment, management, employment, and contracting diversity
Each applicant is required to submit a diversity plan within 30 calendar days of receiving notice from the committee, with the SWARC only awarding licenses to those that can attest to working towards meeting the state’s diversity objectives, while providing updated information to the commission on those objectives and agreeing to make their plan available to the general public.
How We Got to Friday’s SWARC Vote
Friday’s unanimous vote by the SWARC members came a week after Brandt filed a letter to Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, laying out why the AELR should approve the committee’s proposed emergency diversity plan regulations.
In that letter, Brandt said the AELR’s approval would allow prospective betting applicants to move forward with their attempts to enter the Maryland sports betting market, while also bolstering diversity and inclusion in the state.
“Over the past year, SWARC members have diligently explored ways to carry out our mandate within the constraints explained to us by attorneys,” Brandt writes. “As we have come to understand the industry, it is apparent that the licenses for mobile wagering will be the most significant to achieving the Sports Wagering Law’s goal of creating a diverse and inclusive market, so we have set forth a plan to best achieve the law’s intent with a focus on mobile licenses, as I will explain below.”
Brandt said SWARC members alone cannot build out Maryland’s future sports betting scene, and the committee needs the AELR’s support to ensure the state doesn’t miss a golden chance to launch the market before the Super Bowl.
“We have been advised that SWARC must wait for AELR’s approval of our emergency regulations before we can begin accepting applications,” Brandt said. “SWARC has also been advised that it had to await the results of the sports wagering industry analysis and a review of the results by the Office of the Attorney General. These two action items must be completed before SWARC can begin accepting applications, evaluating applicants and awarding licenses.”