Ralph E. Moore Jr.

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

Looking at the television commercials these days, comedian and Oscar winning actor, Jamie Foxx, is quite excited about betting on sports events on his phone.  So is the also very popular comic and movie star, Kevin Hart.  The former entertainer is on the BET MGM app, the latter on Draft King. The two well-known, highly regarded influencers are Black men who can and do get the public’s attention. But what exactly are they urging us to try these days? The answer: gambling, via phone and computer apps.

Sports betting seems to be the latest craze with apps that can be available easily on your mobile device. You can watch games on television (or in person) and bet on outcomes on your phone. If you bet on a winner of a game, that’s a money line bet. If you wager that a team will win or lose by a certain amount of points (or runs, goals or whatever) that’s betting on the spread, and if you feel lucky enough to gamble on several outcomes in a single bet, that’s a parlay. 

Online betting officially became legally available on Nov. 23, 2022 in the great state of Maryland –just in time for Thanksgiving Day bets on college and NFL football games.  According to the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), these franchises were awarded online betting licenses and were ready to roll. Next in line are the following:

  • Barstool Sportsbook (operator for PENN Maryland/Hollywood Casino in Perryville)
  • BetMGM (operator for BetMGM Maryland Sports/MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill)
  • BetRivers (operator for Arundel Amusements/Bingo World in BrooklynPark)
  • Caesars Sportsbook (operator for CZR Maryland Mobile Opportunity/Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore)
  • DraftKings (Crown MD Online Gaming)
  • FanDuel (operator for PPE Maryland Mobile/Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover, Md.)
  • PointsBet (operator for Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County)

Maryland was the second state to launch mobile betting during the 2022-2023 NFL season. The legal gambling process was an evolving one: first the states legalized gambling (Nevada has always had it), then they approved online betting. In recent times, however, Mississippi had the first legal bets placed in its borders on Aug. 1, 2018, after their law passed in 2017. The state of Pennsylvania permitted legal gambling shortly thereafter.

The floodgates to gambling were opened by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018. The Supreme Court of the United States issued a much awaited decision that struck down the federal ban on states being able to authorize legal sports betting.

Betting has its own terminology, such as ‘action’ which is the amount of bets placed on the game. “Book” is an abbreviation for “sportsbook” which is an establishment that accepts bets.  A “dog” is the team that is expected to lose. And “lines” describe the point spread, the total or the money line. Finally, the word “lock” describes the team that is expected to win.  There are over 60 words and phrases in the glossary of gambling terms– only a pro knows them all.

But as more and more folks take to online gambling, more people will likely start speaking the language of betting.  Betting seems to be a very fast growing phenomenon in Maryland.  

The apps have built in safeguards and rules to ensure that one cannot gamble if under the age of 21 or if a person is in a state where sports betting is not yet legal based on the GPS embedded in the sports betting apps.

According to Maryland Sports Wagering Reports, mobile wagers could bet over $4 billion in the first year.  All major league sports as well as college games are available to bet on. The companies with licenses give 15 percent to the state of Maryland for public education programs that are part of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund.

In a recent phone conversation with Bert Hash Jr., some perspective was offered on the value of sports betting revenue to the citizens of the state for its important need—education. According to his biography on the website for the current Sports Wagering Application Review Commission members, Hash is the retired President and CEO of the Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore. He is a seasoned financial services executive with over 44 years of experience in managing various aspects of banking and financial services, including Equitable Bank for 15 years and Provident Bank of Maryland for 12 years. 

Hash was appointed to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission by former Gov. Larry Hogan along with six other members. Hash said, “At the end of the day, the funding from the wagering is going to education needs of the state.  That should be very exciting for children and adults alike.”

As we all know, folks are going to gamble. And society benefiting from all the wagering in our state’s future can be worthwhile bets if done responsibly, of course.

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