Gaming officials in Massachusetts are studying ways to increase participation by minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in the upcoming sports betting launch process. The study aims to bring diversity to the sports betting industry from its inception in the state.
Why is this diversity study necessary?
A diversity study conducted by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is a requirement of the Massachusetts sports betting law signed earlier this month. Results must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2022.
Two other US states set to launch mobile sports betting programs are also studying ways to increase participation by minorities, women and veterans.
The gambling industry, albeit heavily regulated, consists of predominantly white upper-level management, especially among its chief officers. MGM Resorts, which owns MGM Springfield, has just two Black board members.
With the state looking to see millions of dollars in sports-betting revenue, its legislators want to ensure minority operators get a piece of the action. Without such measures, Massachusetts could become an exclusionary place where the rich can get richer, so to speak.
Including minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses gives sportsbook licensees an opportunity to connect with the communities they serve. These companies represent a much more significant percentage of the population than current proportions associated with sports betting.
Involving minority-owned businesses in MA sports betting
In addition to this study, legislators require the MGC to conduct a study on the feasibility of Massachusetts retail locations operating sports betting kiosks.
If all goes to plan, business owners who are minorities, women or veterans will be eligible to operate kiosks. Others could partner with Massachusetts sportsbooks through promotions and marketing sponsorships with local businesses in these categories.
Sportsbooks could also donate to programs in local cities and across the state that help small businesses owned by minorities, women or veterans through grants and loans – or start programs themselves.
The city of Boston lists more than 650 black- and brown-owned businesses in its metro area. Around one-third of all businesses in the state are run by women. Hundreds more are run by veterans, creating opportunities for sports-wagering operators to create diversity.
Massachusetts isn’t alone in its diversity and inclusion efforts
Ohio and Maryland are two other states eagerly anticipating the launch of mobile sports betting. Massachusetts is now in the same boat as both of them when it comes to needing to submit diversity and minority disparity studies.
Retail sports betting is already live down in Maryland. Online sports betting, however, looks like it won’t go live before football season, as was hoped. While the delay may cost the state millions of dollars in tax revenue, it is what Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes called “an opportunity to get it right.”
MGM Resorts Board Member Rose McKinney-James said the MD casino industry’s diversity study is “an important example of sacrifice for the greater good,” adding that Maryland’s inclusion efforts are creating a path for all future states to walk.
Ohio disparity study timeline
Much remains to be done in Ohio between now and its Jan. 1 target launch date. One provision in its sports-betting law requires the state’s Department of Administrative Services to conduct a disparity study to determine whether sports-wagering companies “experience discrimination or disadvantage” on personal characteristics such as race, skin color, ethnicity, gender or disability.
As of now, PlayOhio reports that no study has begun. It appears that the Ohio Casino Control Commission will issue gaming licenses before the survey takes place. Some believe mobile sportsbooks could go live even before the study begins.
State Sen. Cecil Thomas remained outspoken against such practices. He thought the intent was to complete the study before granting licenses to operators. Thomas said he felt like it was pointless after issuing licenses. Its entire purpose was to develop a licensing system that is open and fair to everyone.
OCCC spokesperson Jessica Franks would only weigh in as far as to say that commissioners should not discuss outcomes of pending studies.
What’s next for sports betting in Massachusetts?
We already know the likely results that will come out once these states conclude their studies. The casino industry has not shown much diversity throughout its history, with rare exceptions. Tribes, for instance, can operate casino gaming as a form of reparations.
As sports betting and iGaming grow into new markets across the nation, states such as Massachusetts and Maryland are looking to do their part to ensure opportunities are available for people from all walks of life.
No known black-owned casinos exist in the US. There are plenty of minorities, however, who are qualified for other management and executive positions. Others own businesses that could be a part of the process, directly or indirectly.
The hope is the studies will uncover steps to fix what we know needs fixing.