Caesars Entertainment is hedging its bets on whether it will invest in Maryland mobile sports betting this year.
In a first-quarter 2022 earnings call Tuesday, Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said he is “skeptical Maryland launches mobile in ‘22.” The company instead plans to focus its digital investment this year on Ohio – a market that is expected to generate $3.35 billion in annual sports betting handle at full maturity.
“We have an Ohio launch in front of us, that would be the only launch that I can think of that would have significant costs surrounding it,” Reeg said. “And so how we come out of the box in Ohio will be a governing factor in terms of where we would be, but that’s the rights we’ve got.”
Ohio is expected to launch later this year after the state legalized retail and online sports betting in Dec. 2021.
Why Caesars Is Skeptical About Maryland
Reeg isn’t totally counting Maryland out in 2022. He made it clear Caesars expects to invest in digital sports betting in Maryland “if and when mobile launches. You should expect us to be competitive there as well.”
The comments come as the Old Line State has yet to adopt all regulations needed to award a potential 60 mobile licenses. Rules are still being drafted by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, or SWARC – one of two regulatory bodies overseeing the sports betting industry in Maryland.
It has been five months since in-person sports betting launched in Maryland. Up to 47 retail licenses (including 17 locations guaranteed licensing pending a regulatory check) and up to 60 mobile licenses were authorized under a 2021 state sports betting law.
Only five Maryland sportsbooks have launched so far – all of them among the 17 locations designated by law.
Where Does Maryland Mobile Sports Betting Stand Now?
Regulations must be adopted by SWARC before applications for mobile licenses can be submitted. SWARC is authorized by law to award up to 60 mobile licenses to qualified applicants, once regulations are filed.
SWARC will also be responsible for awarding up to 30 competitively-bid retail licenses that are not among 17 locations designated for licensing in a 2021 state law.
So far, SWARC has not said when regulations will be adopted.
The commission instead says on its website it is “drafting regulations to govern the application process.” It is also, it says, conducting an “industry analysis” of today’s sports betting market.
“These tasks must be completed before the application process can begin,” the commission states. “Updates on the status of SWARC regulations will be provided on swarc.org as the regulations are being promulgated.”
Caesars In Ontario
Caesars is also not particularly bullish about Ontario, whose regulated sports betting industry launched in April
“You shouldn’t expect to see us throw a lot of money in Ontario,” Reeg said on the earnings call. “We expect to be a player. We expect the market to grow steadily, but that’s not going to be a big needle mover one way or another for us.”