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The 17 brick-and-mortar companies established in a Maryland bill this year can begin the process to receive at least temporary sports betting licenses sometime in the fall, specifically in time for the NFL playoffs.

John Martin, director of the state’s Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said Tuesday, Sept. 21, an “e-licensing portal” opened for those entities Thursday, Sept. 16 to begin the licensing review process.

“What’s happening now is our team of people [is] working with the named applicants who have begun the process to do the required investigations and background checks,” Martin said during a virtual session with the state-mandated Sports Wagering Applications Review Commission. “We may submit those applications back to score for awarding the license and continue building upon the positive momentum we have to get sports wagering operational by late fall.”

Some of the 17 businesses outlined in a bill during this year’s 90-day legislative session in Annapolis include: MGM casino and resort at National Harbor; Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County; Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City; FedEx Field in Landover; M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore; and Rod ‘N’ Reel in Calvert County.

Applicants interested in operating one of the 30 brick-and-mortar operations or 60 mobile and online betting licenses would be started behind those established businesses.

In the meantime, residents and prospective merchants can still submit written comments to the gaming agency on the sports wagering regulations before the 30-day public comment period ends Monday, Sept. 27. Comments can be posted at www.mdgaming.com/sports-wagering-comments/.

As the agency conducts financial and criminal background checks to push for sports betting by the NFL playoffs, the wagering commission awards licenses, ensuring minority and women-owned businesses are included in the process and those granted a license are located a certain distance from a casino or other potential sports-betting facilities.

Cheryl Brown-Whitfield, principal counsel with the state’s Department of Transportation, said a 2017 disparity study shows discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses “is still a significant problem.”

The study became commissioned when the state began its medical cannabis program.

Zenita Wickham Hurley, chief counsel for civil rights at the Maryland Office of Attorney General, said the state statute requires the commission to “encourage” minority- and women-owned businesses and certified as a minority enterprise business to apply for a betting license.

Wickham Hurley said the commission should also “consider early access for applicants who partner” with those businesses.

“These considerations by the uncodified section of the law should be done expeditiously and in a manner that is in the best interest of Marylanders,” she said.

Based on the counsels’ legal summaries and advice, the commission voted to conduct a disparity study with a focus on the sports betting industry.

The commission didn’t note how long the study would take to complete but the group’s third meeting will be Oct. 14.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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