Maryland Mobile Sports Betting Still Months Away From Launch

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Maryland mobile sports betting appears to be a long way off, nearly nine months after a state law was passed allowing up to 60 mobile sportsbook licenses. 

State regulators are still working to get retail facilities up and running. Sportsbooks located within five casinos have launched so far, with three more in OTBs expected to launch soon. The eight locations are among 17 casinos, horse tracks, pro sports stadiums, OTBs, and large bingo halls designated by a 2021 Maryland sports betting law (HB940) to offer retail sports betting through a two-pronged state regulatory process.

That leaves nine of the 17 designated licenses yet to be awarded. As many as 60 mobile/online licenses – which will be bid competitively under regulations yet to be adopted by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, or SWARC – could be awarded much later. 

Regulations must be adopted by SWARC before applicants can be vetted and licenses ultimately issued by a second group of regulators at the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA). 

But it’s unclear when SWARC will act. 

SWARC Has Yet To Adopt Mobile Sports Betting Regulations

SWARC is responsible for awarding all sports betting licenses in Maryland. Any license that’s awarded may be issued by MLGCA after that agency – responsible for qualifying applicants for review by SWARC – completes a final background check. 

But MLGCA needs SWARC regulations in place before it can begin to vet applicants for competitive licenses, including the possible 60 mobile/online sports betting licenses, plus up to 30 additional retail licenses for small venues.

SWARC “has not yet established its regulations,” according to an email to Gaming Today by MLGCA Assistant Director of Communications for Public Affairs Seth Elkin.

SWARC itself says in a Jan. 19 document drafted by its legal team that it “is working to establish the license application process for the Class B Competitive Licenses and the Mobile Licenses.”

The state of Maryland is working to ensure women- and minority-owned businesses will have a stake in the sports betting industry. Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law requires SWARC to give weight to those businesses in the bidding process.

Maryland Sports Betting Totals $16.5 Million In December

Maryland retail sports betting totaled $16.55 million in handle from the five casinos that opened sportsbook operations in December, according to a Jan. 10 release from MLGCA. Sportsbook operators held $3.17 million of that (19.2%), and tax contributions to public education from that revenue were $469,297.

“We are truly excited that sports wagering is available, and we’re eager to do our part to keep the market growing,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said in the release.

The five sports wagering facilities operating in December and their opening dates were MGM National Harbor (operated by BetMGM, opened Dec. 9); Live! Casino & Hotel (operated by FanDuel, opened Dec. 10); Horseshoe Casino (operated by Caesars, opened Dec. 10); Ocean Downs Casino (operated by TwinSpires, opened Dec. 17); and Hollywood Casino (operated by Penn National/Barstool, opened Dec. 23). 

Three off-track-betting venues — Long Shot’s in Frederick, Riverboat on the Potomac in Colonial Beach, Va., and Greenmount Station in Hampstead — have been approved by the state and awarded licenses by the SWARC. The venues are expected to open retail sportsbooks sometime in early 2022. 

All three OTBs and the five casinos that opened sportsbooks in December are among the 17 locations named in HB940.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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