A stripped-down version of a bill to let Maryland voters decide whether to legalize sports betting was approved Wednesday in the final hours of the General Assembly’s abbreviated session.
Del. Nick Mosby of Baltimore maneuvered for a bill that does not specify which companies would be able to apply for a license. Instead, if voters approve sports betting during the November election, state lawmakers would then determine who would be eligible to offer betting.
That decision would be informed by a “disparity study” that would determine whether racial minorities or women face a disadvantage in participating in the betting industry. If that’s the case, lawmakers could include provisions in their plans that would give preference to underrepresented groups in the licensing process.
On Wednesday, the state Senate unanimously agreed to the House changes to the bill, sending the legislation to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his consideration.
Del. Michele Guyton, a Baltimore County Democrat, said she was worried the Maryland State Fair in Timonium would get shut out of the opportunity for a betting license, but she offered support for Mosby’s changes.
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Maryland has used a disparity study once before to consider licensing companies in an emerging industry.
When medical cannabis was first legalized, the majority of licenses went to non-minority companies. After a disparity study confirmed that minorities were at a disadvantage in applying for licenses, the Assembly in 2018 created a second round of licenses that gave extra points in the application process to minority-owned businesses.