Maryland mobile sports betting applicants can start the initial licensing process Friday when state gaming regulators open e-licensing for prospective applicants.
The development will allow mostly small businesses new to the sports betting industry to start the background process and file an initial application for a minimal fee of $2,000-$5,200. Once the application is filed and fees are paid, state regulators with Maryland Lottery and Gaming (MLG) can proceed with a required investigation to qualify the applicant for a sports betting license. But businesses still have an out if they want, or need, one.
Should a business decide the process isn’t for them, they could receive a partial refund from the fees paid.
It’s a way to ease small businesses into a sports betting venture, rather than saddling them with the required $500,000 for a mobile license or $50,000 for a retail license early on, says MLG official Jim Nielsen.
“We’re doing our best to make sure this is painless as possible, but helps them as much as we can,” he said.
The development was announced during today’s meeting of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, or SWARC. In cooperation with MLG, the commission is responsible for competitively awarding up to 60 mobile and up to 30 small retail sports betting licenses under the state’s 2021 sports betting law.
A Two-Part Process
Mobile sports betting licensing is a two-part process in Maryland. Applications are submitted through MLG and SWARC, with vetting by both agencies. The e-licensing process is controlled by MLG for qualification of potential licensees. The same process will apply to the competitively-awarded retail licenses.
“The Maryland Lottery application piece, those applications will have to be submitted only through that (e-licensing) portal. So, they’re giving early access now,” SWARC legal advisor Kim Copp said at today’s meeting.
SWARC Chair Tom Brandt said SWARC’s mobile sports betting application should roll out later this year.
According to Brandt, e-licensing access will help small businesses with little to no experience with sports betting get a feel for the industry before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mobile license.
“As I have been looking at (regulation) drafts and read the regs, I thought isn’t this a nightmare?,” Brandt said. “That someone’s got to put down $50,000 for a (retail) or half a million dollars for a mobile (license) and then possibly be told ‘Gotcha! You didn’t understand and we’re keeping your money.’”
“No matter how we write this stuff, the best of intentions can be misunderstood.”
Gov. Hogan to SWARC: ‘I Call On You To Act’
The e-licensing news comes two days after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan sent a letter to Brandt and SWARC asking the commission “to act immediately” on mobile sports betting. The June 14 letter states Maryland is losing “tens of millions of dollars in economic investment and education revenue” with mobile launch delayed.
In the letter, Hogan asked SWARC to accelerate its process so that mobile can launch in Maryland by NFL kickoff on Sept. 8.
“To make that target date achievable, it is imperative that you immediately accelerate and intensify your efforts,” he wrote.
Hogan specifically asked SWARC to set a timeline for mobile, expedite the licensing process, and approve applications first-come, first-served. It also asked SWARC to release drafts of its proposed application and regulations for comment.
SWARC applications and regulations are not yet available “but will be shortly,” Copp announced today. MLG regulations were completed several months ago.
Hogan wrote in his letter, “Maryland Lottery and Gaming has gone above and beyond to make this launch happen. I call on you to act with the same level of urgency and clear the way for mobile sports wagering. I, along with many other Marylanders, will be watching your next meeting with great interest.”