A Maryland bill prohibiting in-state colleges and universities from forming partnerships with sportsbook operators that include promotional sign-up incentives passed through the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. SB 620, which already cleared the Senate, could become law ahead of the Maryland Legislature’s April 10 adjournment.
The bill has received minimal pushback from legislators and will still need to be approved on the House floor and signed by Gov. Wes Moore to become law. The legislation is scheduled to take effect on July 1, should it be approved.
Sen. Shelly Hettleman, the legislation’s sponsor, previously told Sports Handle that the bill was inspired by an article from The New York Times that shared details regarding a controversial partnership between the University of Colorado and PointsBet. In that deal, PointsBet awarded Colorado financial incentives when customers signed up using a promotional link provided to the university.
PointsBet and the University of Colorado recently ended their partnership.
The only Maryland college currently partnered with a mobile sportsbook operator is the University of Maryland, which has a relationship with PointsBet. A PointsBet representative told Sports Handle that its relationship with the University of Maryland still exists, but PointsBet declined to comment on the future of that deal.
The American Gaming Association, which isn’t a rulemaking body, recently shared guidelines that suggest universities avoid forming partnerships with sportsbook operators.
PointsBet doesn’t provide sign-up bonus incentives to the University of Maryland, so Hettleman’s legislation likely won’t have much impact on that particular arrangement. SB 620 would require details of partnerships between colleges and sportsbook operators to be public, however, which could lead to greater transparency surrounding the PointsBet-University of Maryland deal.
Maryland retail sports betting goes live tomorrow. This report says the partnership between PointsBet and the University of Maryland is a “seven-figure deal.” https://t.co/2ciHrcBXvp
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) December 8, 2021
Handicapping audit discussed
Another sports betting bill, SB 621, was also discussed by the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, but it wasn’t put to a vote. SB 621 would give the Maryland Lottery, the state’s sports wagering regulator, the ability to pick independent evaluators to audit sports betting content creators in the state.
Chris Adams, CEO of SharpRank, a company angling to be one of the evaluators, recently told Sports Handle that the bill’s purpose is to reduce the impact of shady handicappers and touts in the industry. Evaluators would specifically look at in-house and affiliated handicappers for licensed sportsbooks in Maryland.
While the idea is well-intentioned, it’s unclear if the bill actually solves a current problem. Maryland’s licensed sportsbooks — BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and FanDuel are a few of the major operators currently accepting wagers in the state — aren’t working with shady tout services. And if they were, they can already be punished for that type of behavior by the Maryland Lottery. What’s more, the bill doesn’t even mandate that licensed sportsbooks need to partner with an organization like SharpRank for a handicapper audit, making the process optional.
The shady touts that SharpRank talks about often require customers to pay for picks, sometimes even claiming to get bettors rich. That type of behavior is undoubtedly bad for the industry, but the current iteration of SB 621 doesn’t provide a clear plan to substantially limit those content creators.