With Wide-Open Licensing, Could Maryland Lead The Way In Social Sports Betting?

Written By Derek Helling on May 27, 2021
social sports betting

It’s fun to win money on a sports bet. It’s even more fun to do so when that win comes with bragging rights. Social sports betting is a segment of the industry that seemingly has a lot of potential to engage casual bettors but it’s been difficult for gambling companies and regulators to quantify it.

Enter sports gambling in Maryland and its comparatively wide-open licensing structure. Could this framework lead to solutions in developing platforms for the category of wagering on sporting events? Some elements seem to point toward that being the case.

Claim Your $1,050 Bonus at DraftKings Sportsbook

What is social sports betting?

To a large degree, this is still more of a concept than an actual product in most US jurisdictions with legal sports betting. That’s mostly because legal frameworks for wagering on sporting events only allow bettors to get in on action against the house, which is a license holder.

Social betting can take several forms. In its purest form, it’s akin to pari-mutuel wagering. It allows you to act as your own “house” in a bet. You put your money up against someone else’s, with the outcome of action from part or all of a sporting event deciding who gets their money back plus yours and who lost.

That’s not necessarily what Maryland sports betting licensees are after, though. They would still like to get a cut of the action. They could do so by charging a fee to accommodate such wagers by building out a platform that enables such transactions. Here’s how it could possibly work:

  • A friend and you both register for the same app and link forms of payments like a debit card
  • Both your friend and you browse available sporting events and select a game you want to wager on
  • Your friend and you decide on the stakes, then both put up your money
  • The sports betting licensee takes a percentage of the payout upon settlement or charges a fee upfront
  • The app tracks the event in question, then immediately credits the designated payout to the victor’s account

Why could MD potentially be so conducive to this happening? Licenses will be available to many different enterprises in the state who have a natural incentive to make this happen.

First Glimpse Of Maryland Legal Sports Betting At Live! Casino

The wide-open spaces in Maryland

Maryland’s sports betting law includes two categories of license classes that will be available to businesses that people don’t typically associate with running a sportsbook. Class B1 licenses will be available for the Maryland State Fair and bingo halls with at least 200 electronic machines.

Class B2 licenses can go to owners of bars and restaurants and the law allows for up to 30 of them. No other jurisdiction has made so many of these types of licenses so widely available yet. Thus, the involvement of such establishments in sports betting in MD could be unique and unprecedented.

There has already been some engagement in sports betting products in the foodservice industry. Buffalo Wild Wings has a partnership with BetMGM Sportsbook that delivers special promos to patrons in applicable jurisdictions.

After acquiring a B2 license, restaurant owners could contract with vendors to supply the necessary technology to run a social betting platform. From there, it’s simply a matter of maintaining the system and advertising its availability.

The product could not only draw in customers but entice them to stay longer and spend more as they watch the sporting events they have action on. Additionally, it acts as a new revenue stream, enabling the licensee to get a cut of every wager made under its license.

So, how close is this to becoming reality in MD? Well, it’s a matter of interpretation and time.

Does MD law allow for social betting right now?

Whether it’s permissible for a licensee to essentially act as the enabler for a sports wager, instead of the house, could be a matter of interpretation. The law in MD defines online sports wagering as sports wagering through an online gaming system:

  1. on a computer, a mobile device, or any other interactive device; and
  2. that is accepted by a sports wagering licensee or an online sports wagering operator

So, it may come down to how regulators define the word “accept” in this context. Because the wager runs through a platform provided by a licensee, it may fit the bill. However, the fact that the licensee doesn’t have a stake in the bet might create a conflict.

What’s certain is that social sports betting could provide a boost to Class B2 licensees in MD and more businesses in MD than anywhere else. Whether this will ever come to fruition is another debate.

Derek Helling Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Derek Helling