Massachusetts Sports Wagering Bill Encourages Diversity

Massachusetts Sports Wagering Bill Encourages Diversity
© USA Today

Maryland led the way in making diversity an integral part of its sports wagering law when it created a licensing framework that encouraged smaller businesses, emphasizing minority-owned and women-owned businesses, to participate in the state’s nascent sports gambling industry.

Key components of the Maryland sports betting law are tiers of retail licenses aimed at promoting small business entry to the market, and a mandate that a newly-formed licensing commission give preference in the issuance of online sports gambling licenses to operators who demonstrate that there’s meaningful equity being held by minority- and women-owned entities.

Idea Is Spreading

Recently, at an informational summit held at a Maryland casino, legislators who pushed for the ground-breaking law voiced the hope that their efforts would be replicated elsewhere in America.

Now, in Massachusetts, a freshman state legislator appears to be championing that same idea. State rep. Orlando Ramos (D., Ninth Hampden District) is one of the lawmakers introducing a sports betting bill (HB 531) that — like the Maryland law — encourages the participation of small business that could be minority-owned in whatever iteration of Massachusetts sports betting that the state adopts.

The commonwealth’s legislature has been debating legalizing sports betting in the Bay State, but there’s little optimism that it’ll happen soon.

Still, Ramos is making his pitch that whatever sports betting law emerges is inclusive so that minority business can participate as small-business operators as retail sportsbooks and that potential customers are not marginalized because they may be hesitant to engage in sports betting via mobile devices and may be more comfortable making bets in-person.

As Maryland legislators emphasized, minority businesses have not had access to the fast-growing sports betting industry as equity participants and that reality can attributed, in part, to the parameters that legislation typically creates in the licensing process. Big, established operators are favored.

“We have a racial wealth gap in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and across the country, and part of the reason is legislation,” Ramos recently told Focus Springfield, a Massachusetts news outlet. “Laws that have been passed that continue to haunt us to this day.”

What’s In The Massachusetts Bill

The bill Ramos favors would allow for both retail and online gaming but there would be room for small businesses, such as bars and restaurants, to have betting kiosks.

In that way, the commonwealth’s handful of casinos would not have such an iron grip on the retail sports betting business and bettors would have greater access.

“Keep people where they are in their bars and restaurants, enjoy the game, and they can place their bet at a kiosk,” Ramos was quoted as saying.

With more retail places to gamble on sports, customers get a more convenient option, he said, and the small businesses would obviously profit as well.

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