A group of sports betting bills in Maryland are headed to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk after receiving approval Monday on the state legislature’s final session day.
The legislative efforts look to boost responsible gambling best practices in the state and add consumer protections, but the language in the bills leads to questions about how useful they will actually be. One of the bills addresses sportsbook operators’ partnerships with Maryland colleges, but the guidance under the legislation doesn’t actually ban partnerships, it just prohibits one element of potential deals.
A second legislative effort attempts to audit handicappers and touts in the state, but the bill’s language doesn’t guarantee an audit across any level of the state’s sports betting market. It certainly doesn’t guarantee an audit of the most misleading touts across the mobile sports wagering market.
College partnership bills toothless?
A pair of bills, SB 620 and HB 802, sent to Gov. Moore’s desk would prohibit colleges from forming partnerships with sportsbook operators “if the sports marketing entity or the institution of higher education receives certain compensation for student participation in certain sports wagering.”
While a good idea in theory, the legislation is arguably outdated given recent shifts in the industry.
SB 620 was inspired by a series of articles in The New York Times, including one that pointed out that the University of Colorado received financial compensation when customers signed up for PointsBet using a promotional code sent to the university. PointsBet and the University of Colorado have since ended their partnership, and the University of Maryland’s deal with PointsBet has no financial incentives for sign-ups.
The bill tackles a potential problem that’s seemingly gone from the industry. The American Gaming Association has newly recommended against any deals between sportsbook operators and colleges that promote or advertise sports betting. This legislation falls short of that suggestion.
Additional language in the bill requires details of contracts between sportsbook operators and universities to be publicly available. It’s unclear if that impacts the University of Maryland’s current deal with PointsBet, however, since the legislation will be enacted after the partnership was formed.
Handicapper audit passes
SB 621, which would audit touts and handicappers in the state, focuses on handicappers who work for Maryland’s licensed sportsbooks or who use affiliate links associated with those sportsbooks. The bill doesn’t actually mandate, however, that those licensed sportsbooks contract with an independent evaluator like SharpRank. The process is entirely optional, and it adds more work for staff of the Maryland Lottery, as it will be in charge of licensing these evaluators.
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In theory, the idea behind the legislation makes sense. The lottery picks out evaluators, and the evaluators try to give a stamp of approval to credible handicappers who aren’t misleading about their records or winnings. Removing shady touts from the state’s sports betting content would be a major plus for consumers, if companies like SharpRank can pull it off.
In practice, it’s a challenge. Maryland’s licensed sportsbooks — which include well-known national brands like BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, and FanDuel — aren’t partnering with shady touts. Additionally, those operators can already be sanctioned by the Maryland Lottery should they mislead the public or violate state wagering rules.
Typically, shadier touts operate outside the regulated market, perhaps gaining followers by posting bold claims on social media about their winning records. Are independent evaluators capable of cracking down on those? Spreading the word to Maryland consumers about every misleading tout is a massive undertaking.
The legislation’s practical impact will be tested in the years to come, assuming it is signed into law.