Will Marylanders ‘Sea’ Crab Cake Eating Contest Betting At Legal Sportsbooks?

Written By Derek Helling on June 21, 2021
crab cake eating contest

The onset of legal Maryland sports betting and its wide-open licensing framework creates many hypothetical situations. In addition to a potential welcoming landscape for social sports betting, could MD become ground zero for crab cake eating contest betting?

Well, maybe. The MD Lottery and Gaming Control Commission still will have a lot to say about that. Some parts of the legal structure seem to point toward this being a possibility for adventurous MD sportsbooks, though.

Could crab cake eating contest betting actually become a thing in MD?

Right now, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The enabling statute in MD leaves the matter of deciding which events are permissible for future sportsbook operators to offer action on to the aforementioned commission. On their face, such events don’t seem to conflict with statutory requirements for eligible events.

On that matter, the statute reads:

“…and prohibited wagers, such as wagers on injuries, penalties, the outcome of player disciplinary rulings, replay reviews, and other types or forms of wagering that are contrary to public policy or unfair to bettors”

The commission could deem that wagering on such events falls within the parameters of “forms of wagering that are contrary to public policy.” It’s unclear whether the coming regulations will include a list of banned or permissible events.

A market for these types of bets could very well exist, too. A safe bet is that if gamblers have any interest in wagering on such contests anywhere, MD is probably ground zero for that.

Not that far-fetched

Marylanders harvest roughly half of the US supply of blue crab. Crab-cake eating contests already exist throughout the commonwealth. For example, Phillips Seafood restaurants sponsor such an event at the annual Maryland Foodie Fest.

Offering betting on these contests could create a new way to monetize and promote them. If wagering on eating contests seems like a fish out of water, take a step back. Bettors in multiple jurisdictions have already been able to stake competitors in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and a DraftKings Sportsbooksponsored candy-eating competition.

MD law allows businesses like restaurants to apply for Class B sports betting licenses. Thus, some of the same enterprises holding these contests could themselves be sportsbooks. While that seems to create a natural demand for a crossover, it could also be the very reason these events are off the board.

Could integrity concerns do this idea in?

That phrase in the MD law, “unfair to bettors,” might also come into play here. That’s especially true when a license holder is not only offering action on a contest but simultaneously operating the contest as well.

In short, the connections mean a myriad of ways to manipulate the outcomes. An example would be a favorite throwing the competition intentionally for a cut of the hold. Instead of digging into the details, it might be easier to simply keep such events off the board entirely.

A potential compromise would be requiring oversight from a recognized governing body for these events such as Major League Eating. Additionally, imposing low caps on the amounts bettors can wager could enable this type of betting.

If separate parties handle the bookmaking and running the contest, that would behoove the chances of regulatory approval. Perhaps a DraftKings-sponsored and MLE-sanctioned crab cake eating contest with betting markets will never be anything more than a fantasy.

Within the right parameters though, it could be a piece of (crab) cake.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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