In November, when Maryland voters approved a measure to allow sports betting with most of the generated revenue earmarked for education, Richard DeShay Elliott wasn’t one of them.
The 25-year-old Glenn Dale resident said casino revenue hasn’t increased funding for statewide education over the past few years but has merely supplanted other funding streams in the general budget. He said the sports betting legislation state which lawmakers passed April 12 failed to incorporate specific funding measures.
In a letter to legislators, he offered 13 recommendations including mandating 50 percent of minority, women and veteran-owned businesses to benefit from the industry.
“To pass this on the last day of the legislative session without much public input or inquiry on how it would be done isn’t right,” said Elliott, a member of the Prince George’s County Young Democrats. “I have no issues with betting on a moral principle but I have a very strong belief that if money is coming out of our pockets, then it should be reinvested in our communities.”
Lawmakers designated the bill as an emergency measure that would become effective upon the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan and could begin as early as the NFL season this fall. Financial projections suggest that the revenue could generate between $15 million to $20 million annually.
But it’s not a huge piece of the pie given the recently approved state budget, which totals $54.2 billion.
“It is a relatively small amount of money versus the larger amount of the other things that we do,” said state Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-District 47) of Cheverly. “Still, it’s important for folks to be cautious and understand what this could mean for minority businesses.”
Augustine said equity measures have been included in the bill from “lessons learned” when problems surfaced following the approval of medical cannabis in 2014. For example, a Sports Wagering Application Review Commission would assess racial, ethnic and gender diversity “when awarding certain licenses and conduct outreach to certain small, minority and women business owners.”
And a wagering assistance fund administered by the state Department of Commerce would also provide grants and loans to help businesses with the sports wager application fees, operations and any training they might require.
Just how many minority and women-owned businesses would be included are not specified but a seven-member review commission would assess the sports wagering industry, evaluate programs and methods to include minority and women-owned businesses and “actively seek to achieve” diversity when awarding licenses on an annual basis.
Up to 60 mobile and online betting licenses would be granted.
The Nuts and Bolts of Betting Operations
The state’s six casinos will be allowed to offer in-person sports betting.
The MGM National Harbor casino resort has proposed plans to offer it with kiosks and other amenities. MGM Resorts International already operates a mobile app available in Virginia and a sportsbook at Nationals Park in Southwest.
Maryland Live! in neighboring Anne Arundel County plans to open a new restaurant and lounge April 29 for people to watch and bet on various sporting events.
As the legislative session in Annapolis ended recently, legislators approved an amendment for a commercial bingo facility to operate up to 200 electronic bingo or tip jar machines which would be approved with a license like a Class A-1 with 1,000 or more video lottery terminals. Each business would pay a one-time license fee of $2 million. After five years in operation, a renewal fee, which required, would be significantly less.
A $500,000 initial fee would be assessed for online sports betting licenses.
An estimated $14.3 million would go directly to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – a multibillion-dollar education plan – which would provide funds to assist a career and technology education committee, accountability and implementation board and curriculum and instruction materials.
In fiscal year 2023, the governor would appropriate $1.5 million in the budget for both Bowie State and Morgan State universities to create a Center for the Study of Data Analytics and Sports Gaming at each school. The center would study and analyze technology, E-sports and the impact of gaming on various audiences.
“It’s very clear the voters value and consider one of our highest priorities is having a world-class education for the students in the state,” said Sen. Melony Griffith (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro who helped work on the bill in the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee. “This sports betting will provide another tool in our funding toolbox as it pertains to education.”
As for Elliott, he suggests at least 54 percent of revenue generated in Prince George’s County should go toward education.
“Without a specific mandate, it remains unclear how the money would be used,” said Elliott who has entered his name as a candidate in the 2021 election for the House of Delegates 24th legislative district.