Maryland is determined to beat Ohio to the mobile sports betting starting gate.
The plan is to have the first mobile sportsbooks live in the Old Line State by mid-December, Maryland Lottery and Gaming (MLG) Director John Martin said during a sports betting regulation webinar on Vixio today. Regulators from Maryland, Ohio, and Massachusetts were all part of the discussion.
“I am confident there will be mobile wagering in the state of Maryland in 2022,” Martin said when asked for a firm timeline by Vixio journalist and moderator Matt Carey.
Ohio sports betting will launch at the mobile and retail level statewide on Jan. 1, 2023. The universal start date is mandated under the state’s sports betting law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in Dec. 2021.
Only recently has the pace quickened toward a mobile launch date in Maryland. The sea change came with the approval of a required industry analysis in recent months, coupled with an immovable deadline of Oct. 21 for Maryland sportbooks applications.
Up to 60 mobile licenses are available in Maryland. The state will also issue up to 30 competitive retail sportsbook licenses. Since last December, retail sports betting has launched at a handful of locations designated for licensure under state law.
Maryland Rolling Toward a December Launch, Officials Say
Martin said he expects Maryland mobile sports betting to launch by late November or early to mid-December, depending on when the remaining regulatory work is complete.
“It’s our hope that if SWARC (the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, which awards licenses later issued by MLG) can get those to us by early November, we might be in business by the end of November. If it takes them till middle November, it might be the first part of December,” said Martin.
“Once those applicants are awarded and then issued licenses, we see an ongoing rolling process over the next several weeks after that.”
Right now, Martin said, MLG is focused on qualifying applicants that meet the final mobile and competitive retail application deadline on Oct. 21. Qualification means finishing criminal and financial background checks into potential licensees before they can be awarded a sports betting license.
By Oct. 27, Martin said qualified mobile and competitive retail applicants will be announced. SWARC will be able to award licenses to qualified applicants after that date, he said. That sets Maryland up for a late 2022 launch, said Martin.
Where is Ohio in its Launch Timeline?
Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) chief Matt Schuler said licensing compliance for 25 mobile and 40 retail sports betting licenses available under Ohio law — plus licensing of sports betting operators that will handle hundreds of sports betting kiosks across the state — are his agency’s focus at this stage.
“We have 94 different applicants that require a determination in time to be ready for launch from the universal start date of Jan. 1,” said Shuler. The OCCC is making sure those applicants are suitable for licensing under the law.
Tomorrow – Oct. 5 – is the deadline for all mobile and retail applicants, sportsbook operators, and suppliers to submit required company holding information. No licenses can be issued without that information. The next deadline is Nov. 2, when the responsible gaming plan, facility plans, house rules, etc. must be submitted to the OCCC for approval.
Schuler said all potential licensees should be aware of required deadlines moving forward.
“They just need to understand at this particular phase we are very much focused on achieving the Jan. 1 universal start date. And so the commission has established deadlines, and the cadence, that needs to be met in order to achieve the (Ohio state legislature’s) mandate,” said Schuler.
“So all applicants need to be responsive, or we’re just going to have to leave them on the sidelines and pick them up sometime next year.”
Massachusetts Launch Update
Massachusetts has held almost weekly, sometimes semi-weekly, meetings to prepare for sports betting since the commonwealth legalized sportsbooks in early Aug. 2022.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said she is aware that sportsbook operators need a launch date, but the process is not there yet.
The MGC needs more guidance on temporary licensing in the meantime.
A lack of a cap on temporary non-tethered mobile licenses in Massachusetts’ sports betting law has complicated the process. State law allows up to seven permanent untethered mobile licenses but unlimited temporary untethered licenses. Approving too many of the temporary licenses could force operators out of business, Judd-Stein said.
“We are working through these issues with our team and our legal counsel,” she said during the webinar. “It’s clear to me through our roundtables (at the MGC) that prospective operators have reported that they really need a launch date – they need timeline milestones and a clear regulatory framework.”
She said more discussion about a potential launch date is expected during the MGC’s next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 6.