Since Maryland launched its legal sports betting scene six months ago, gambling companies have competed heavily to get top positions in the state’s growing market.
According to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun in a public records request, Maryland operators asked the state to adjust the rules intended to safeguard players from misleading offers.
Gambling companies ask lawmakers to lift a regulation regarding promo offers
The state records show Maryland online sportsbooks must considerably enhance their ability to offer free or discounted bets to attract new players. Such deals are quite popular among bettors, but it is the fine print that is subject to scrutiny according to the state regulators.
As The Baltimore Sun reports, the companies specifically asked Maryland to “lift a regulation that requires them to submit a description of any promotional offer, along with its terms and conditions, to gambling regulators for inspection at least two days before putting it into effect.”
Instead, Maryland sportsbooks suggested telling the state about a promotion within five business days of launching it. In other words, there would be no notice or time for advance review. They said the requirement of two days’ notice wouldn’t allow them to offer promotions targeting fans in certain areas immediately. For example, right after their teams advanced to the NCAA basketball tournament.
Maryland sportsbooks have repeatedly told regulators that promotions are critical to attracting new players and retaining regular ones.
Maryland regulators issued a written warning about the “risk-free” language
Since gambling companies started advertising extensively, Maryland regulators emailed operators a notice. The warning, by Michael Eaton, director of audit and regulatory compliance for the Maryland gambling agency, said:
“Please share this with your marketing teams. We have deemed the ‘Risk-Free’ language used in sports betting promotions as predatory. Going forward it shall not be allowed to be included in any Maryland-specific advertising or promotions.”
Among the recipients were DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and BetMGM.
With “risk-free” promotions, players are usually promised a free replacement bet. If a player loses, they can use the replacement bet within a given period. Critics claim “risk-free” is misleading, suggesting players can get their money back.
Maryland lawmakers have recently approved two new sportsbook marketing laws, set to take effect on July 1. The first one, SB620, would ban state universities from entering into marketing partnerships with sportsbooks. The other bill, SB621, aims to make a regulatory framework for sports betting audit companies.
Maryland operators recorded more than $328 million in bets during April
Maryland sportsbooks handled more than $328.4 million in bets during April. There are:
- Ten online sportsbook operators
- Ten brick-and-mortar gaming venues, including:
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
- Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover
- MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County
- Ocean Downs Casino in Worcester County
- Hollywood Casino Perryville
The state receives a 15% tax from sports betting earnings which go toward helping fund public schools.
Maryland sportsbooks started accepting bets at their properties in December 2021. Online sports betting in the state launched in November last year.