A consortium of top gambling companies was slapped Tuesday with the largest fine in the history of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The $48,000 fine levied against Sports Betting Alliance was assessed for failing to comply with the state’s 48-hour disclosure requirements.

“We’re cracking down hard on disclosure with independent expenditure entities and that was the biggest one that was collected so far,” said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the board.

DeMarinis will become the state elections administrator in September.

The state Board of Elections collected nearly $75,000 in fines between April and May. The penalties are for violations including failures to keep campaign donation and expenditure records properly, as well as failures to record contributions and expenditures.

Most of the penalties assessed were $1,200 or less. Many of those were for $100 or less.

In all, 28 entities were fined a total of $74,900. Of that, nearly 91% — about $68,000 involved four organizations for failing to file 48-hour notice reports.

In Maryland, independent expenditure organizations can accept contributions not subject to caps. The money spent on an issue or candidate cannot be coordinated with other campaigns. Expenditures of $10,000 or more must be publicly disclosed to the Maryland State Board of Elections within 48-hours.

Failure to file is punishable by a $1,000 per day fine or 10% of what the organization spends in the state, whichever is greater.

“The whole point is that these penalties are here because of the impact independent expenditure committees can have on the process,” said DeMarinis. “They usually come in the last possible second and do some political ads or disseminate campaign material that could possibly affect the election and you need to have very timely disclosure to ensure that individuals are making informed choices at the ballot box.”

Fines go into a state fund for candidates who opt for public campaign financing. Former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) successfully used that fund in his successful 2014 campaign.

Sports Betting Alliance represents online gaming interests including DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel and Fanatic Sports Book. All four hold sports betting licenses in Maryland. The fine was related to activities during the 2020 campaign when voters were asked to approve legalizing sports wagering. All of the fines were part of an audit marking the close of the most recent four-year fundraising cycle.

Addresses listed in state campaign finance records link the Sports Betting Alliance to Gober Group, a law firm specializing in political causes including ballot access and issues campaigns.

“This was simply a filing error by our compliance team,” said a spokesman for Sports Betting Alliance. “As soon as we realized the mistake, we immediately filed the missing form and worked with the Maryland State Board of Election to correct the error.”

Details of how much was spent by the sports betting group was not immediately available. State campaign finance records did not include an amended report.

Another independent expenditure organization, United Political Issues Fund, was fined $5,500.

The state also levied fines against two so-called participating organizations, political action committees outside of Maryland that donate to state candidates.

Motorola Solutions Inc. Political Action Committee paid a $7,500 fine for failing to file a 48-hour disclosure. The PAC donated more than $12,000 to eight candidates. Gov. Wes Moore (D) received $6,000, the most of any candidate, according to election records.

Working Families National PAC paid a $7,000 fine for failing to file required disclosures.

The organization spent more than $400,000 backing progressive Democratic state’s attorney candidates in Maryland including Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

The PAC also backed progressive Democratic state’s attorney challengers including Robbie Leonard and Perry Paylor, in Baltimore County and Montgomery County, respectively.

More than $106,000 of what the PAC spent in 2022 was earmarked specifically for mailings, phone banks and online ads in support of Leonard, who lost a close primary to incumbent Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

This article was initially published on MarylandMatters.org and is republished with permission.

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