After Success on the Basketball Court, Marissa Coleman Leads the Charge in Bringing Sports Betting to Maryland

Marissa Coleman’s roots in the Maryland area run deep. After attending St. John’s College High School in D.C., she graduated from the University of Maryland in 2009.

She was then drafted by the Washington Mystics WNBA team in the first round of the 2009 WNBA draft (2nd overall). What followed was a decade-long career as a professional athlete.

Upon retirement, she began laying the groundwork for a successful off-the-court transition. This included participating in the Women’s March in Washington D.C., opening a Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in Roanoke, VA, and joining The Gaming Society. The latter was the perfect springboard to her being the driving force in bringing legal sports betting to the state of Maryland.

We wanted to hear more about her journey, so we sought her out for the following interview.

Q: How will your involvement at The Gaming Society, founded by Jaymee Messler, Co-Founder of The Players’ Tribune, and NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, play itself out?

A: I am thrilled to be joining The Gaming Society as VP of business development. The Gaming Society is a portal to make sports betting easy. I have long admired Jaymee and her success in founding The Players Tribune and excited to learn from her. In my role, I will be wearing many different hats in helping build the company, with a focus on the ‘Bet On Women’ initiative, in which we have partnered with the WNBA/WNBAPA, to help bring more visibility to women’s sports. It is a way to engage more fans to bet on women through uplifting storytelling, athlete analysis and betting insights.

Q: In your efforts at the Maryland legislative level when it comes to creating gaming venue laws, how will you ensure minorities are involved in the Maryland betting ecosystem?

A: A good friend and mentor, Justin Ross (former Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates), approached me about chairing the campaign. Immediately, I saw this as an opportunity to use my platform not only as chairwoman, but as a professional athlete to lobby and fight for the meaningful inclusion of minorities and women, while creating a space for retired professional athletes. In addition, Jeff Ifrah, from Ifrah Law, was instrumental in educating me on the nuances of the language that needed to make it into the final bill. Jeff has been an advocate of mine in the space, and I am looking forward to our continued partnership.

The minority inclusion language in the MD HB0940 bill mandates opportunities for minority-owned businesses and is the first-of-its-kind. The bill includes key resources to ensure minorities are fairly considered and issued gaming licenses, which will allow them to fairly compete in the marketplace.