Maryland Sports Betting Panel Punts Approval Of Five Licensees, Further Delaying Launch

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Sean Pavone

Maryland’s sports betting launch will have to wait at least another two weeks after one of the state’s two regulatory bodies overseeing the industry punted the issue until Nov. 18. 

After a two-hour closed meeting Wednesday, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, or SWARC, requested that the five casinos already qualified for licenses last month by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) submit “supplemental ownership information” on their application. That information is expected to be used by SWARC to decide whether to award licenses to the casinos around the Nov. 18 mark. 

“We all heard a lot. We got our written legal advice. What will be our next milestone — I think that’s crucial,” SWARC Chair Tom Brandt said Wednesday. That’s when the Nov. 18 date was set.

“The good news is we shouldn’t have long next time. We’ve gotten out legal advice to the max … so these marathons should well be behind us,” said Brandt.

Licenses for 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 expected to be awarded Wednesday afternoon by SWARC after qualifying for licensing last month. 

The sports betting licensing process in Maryland involves the MLGCA qualifying an applicant and sending it to SWARC for approval, and SWARC then approving the application and sending it back to MLGCA for a deeper investigation and the awarding of the license.

Maryland Lottery and Gaming said in an Oct. 21 press release that it is ready to move forward after SWARC, which postponed its October meeting, finishes its work. SWARC voted unanimously in August to accept the agency’s standards for licensing of the 17 designated locations. 

“We’ve approved five facilities, and our work is ongoing,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said Oct. 21 . “We’ll continue sending applications to the SWARC so that it can make awards and sports wagering can launch by late fall. It’s what the public wants and expects, and we’re doing everything we can to deliver it.”

What’s Next In The Process? 

Once the awards are made by SWARC, the licenses can be issued by Maryland Lottery and Gaming.

“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 Oct. 21 .

The MLGCA is scheduled to meet Thursday, Nov. 4 to consider qualifying more sports betting applicants. 

Will Maryland Be Betting Legal During The NFL Regular Season? 

The push to go live with Maryland sports betting this fall is spurred in part by a short but lucrative NFL regular season. With only 17 regular-season games per team, betting options are limited — putting them at a premium. 

According to CNBC, sports betting is expected to earn the NFL more than $270 million this season, largely through sponsorships and advertising. And earnings are only going to get bigger, with betting on the NFL up an estimated 36 percent from last year.

That could mean big money this season and in the future for M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore — home to the Baltimore Ravens — and its gaming partners. The team counts BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars as official sportsbooks, and Horseshoe Casino as its casino partner. Horseshoe Casino is one of the five casinos waiting to be licensed for sports betting in Maryland this month. 

Smaller Venues Expected To Benefit, Too

An expedited launch could also benefit other potential licensees waiting to be greenlighted by SWARC and officially licensed by Maryland Lottery and Gaming. Among those is Riverboat on the Potomac, an OTB/electronic gaming venue and minority business enterprise that is among the 17 designated sports betting venues under Maryland law. 

Delmock Entertainment is part owner of Riverboat on the Potomac. Last month, Delmock partner Tony Jones told Gaming Today’s Marcus DiNitto that his business is excited to be “as close as we could ever hope to be in a fair and equitable position to operate.” 

As for delays, Jones said his company was a bit uneasy on Oct. 6, he said, when Horseshoe Casino, Live! Casino and Hotel, and MGM National Harbor qualified for alternative licensing ahead of the other 14 locations designated by law.

Jones said he’s hopeful for a level playing field in the end. 

“(The delay will) hopefully benefit the other group of 14 of us who were not in that initial group of three,” said Jones. “We were concerned that they would get out ahead of us and we would never catch up. That’s just the way the game is.”

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

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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