Maryland sports betting moved closer to launch Thursday as one of two state regulatory panels awarded retail sports betting licenses to five casinos.
Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool), Ocean Downs (TwinSpires), Horseshoe Casino (Caesars), Live! Casino and Hotel (FanDuel), and MGM National Harbor (BetMGM) — all five among 17 locations designated to receive licenses under Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law — were awarded licenses Thursday morning by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, or SWARC. The casinos were qualified for licenses in October by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC).
All Maryland sports betting licenses must be awarded by SWARC before they can be issued by the MLGCC, which is expected to give licensing authority to its staff at its monthly meeting, scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. ET.
The delegation of licensing authority to MLGCC staff is likely to expedite the licensing process.
“After the SWARC formally awards the facility licenses, the (Maryland Lottery and Gaming) staff will ensure that the licensees have finalized their systems of internal controls and satisfied other operational requirements before issuing licenses. MLGCA staff are working with the applicants to expedite these tasks,” the agency said in a statement.
Also at Thursday’s MLGCA meeting, PointsBet is expected to be qualified for a sports betting operator’s license. The company has access to the Maryland market through an agreement with Riverboat-on-the-Potomac.
How Maryland Sports Betting Got To This Point
SWARC awarded the licenses Thursday after punting approval earlier this month. The regulatory panel delayed action on Nov. 3 after requesting “supplemental ownership information” from applicants.
Some members of SWARC expressed concern Thursday about the fairness of licensing the five casinos before the 12 other facilities designated by law. They said they hope for a more equitable process during later vetting of mobile sports betting licensing and retail licensing for smaller venues, particularly in light of the state’s initiative to include minority- and women-owned businesses in the industry.
“I simply want to ensure that within the confines of where we are, of where we find ourselves, that we put forth the effort … to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses have the ability to be in the pipeline, to be considered sooner, quicker, faster,” said SWARC member Rosie Allen-Herring. “I certainly want to ensure that there will be some at the table.”
Riverboat-on-the-Potomac is a minority-owned business.
The five casinos licensed were vetted by Maryland Lottery and Gaming before being forwarded for review by SWARC, which voted unanimously in August to accept the agency’s standards for licensing of the 17 designated locations.
All five qualified for expedited “alternative licensing” since they already have Maryland gaming licenses.
When Will Maryland Sports Betting Be Up And Running?
Retail sports betting at all five casinos awarded licenses could be operational this fall, depending on when the licenses are issued by MLGCC. The remaining 12 venues designated in Maryland’s sports betting law have not yet qualified for licensing.
An exact launch date for Maryland sports betting has not been determined, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency.
Applications for 60 potential mobile sports betting licenses and the 30 retail licenses not spelled out in Maryland’s sports betting law have not yet been vetted by the state. Those licenses are unlikely to be issued until sometime in 2022.