Some Sports Betting Licensees Benefitting From Maryland Delays

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While there is frustration concerning progress toward launch of legal sports betting in Maryland, some future licensees may be benefitting from the delays.

Without explanation, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) canceled a meeting last week, when three casinos were expected to be approved for sports betting licenses.

Should the meeting have gone forth as scheduled, Horseshoe Casino (with Caesars Sportsbook as its operator), Live! Casino & Hotel (FanDuel), and MGM National Harbor (BetMGM) would have been well-positioned to be the first three casinos taking sports bets in the state.

Those casinos are three of the 10 designated Class A licensees, which also include three more casinos, three professional sports facilities (the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and FedEx Field in Landover), and a single license shared between horse racing tracks Pimlico and Laurel Park. There are also seven Class B licensees designated under Maryland’s sports betting law – five off-track betting facilities and two bingo halls.

The sports betting licensing process in the state goes like this: 1) an application is qualified by the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) and sent to the SWARC for approval; 2) once approved, SWARC sends it back to the MLGCA; 3) MLGCA performs a deeper investigation into the applicant before the license is issued.

“We’re kind of stalled in between that second and third step,” John Martin, director of the MLGCA, told Gaming Today this week. “SWARC canceled their meeting last week, scheduled for the 14th, and we expected them to move favorably on the three (applicants).”

SWARC has neither stated a reason for the cancellation nor has it rescheduled the meeting. The pause in the process, though, may be favorable for the 14 designated licenses that were not invited.

“(The delay will) hopefully benefit the other group of 14 of us who were not in that initial group of three,” said Tony Jones from Delmock Entertainment, which last year purchased a 25% stake in Riverboat on the Potomac, a designated Class B licensee, Jones said. “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. We understand that the big boys have the wherewithal to play any way they want to – and they’ve done a great job, we’ve talked to a lot of them. We understand the business. This isn’t about fair. This is about getting out there and making things happen.”

MLGCA Pushing Forward

Whatever is holding up SWARC isn’t slowing down the MLGCA.

The commission has a meeting set for Thursday, where it intends to submit to SWARC two more facilities for retail sports betting licenses – Class A designees Hollywood Casino in Perryville (Penn National/Barstool) and Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin.

“That’s not stopping us,” said Martin. “We have a charge from the governor (Larry Hogan), as well as from the voters and the legislature, to keep moving forward on this. So even after we submit the two more on Thursday, we’re going to turn our attention to the other 11 who are named in legislation to get them through the process.”

That, of course, is good news to Riverboat on the Potomac, an OTB/lottery/bingo/keno facility whose licensure fits with Maryland’s initiative to include minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports betting business. Jones and Winston DeLattiboudere – CEO of Delmock – are Black, and their partners Maruthi Prasad Veeramarchnani and Suri Gagandeep are South Asian.

“We’ve been very excited about the way sports wagering authority, the regulatory commission has positioned us as close as we could ever hope to be in a fair and equitable position to operate,” Jones said.

The facility has a 10-year agreement with PointsBet to run its sportsbook.

“We’re very serious about this business, and we believe we can be a player in it,” Jones continued. “We believe we can demonstrate to the state of Maryland and other states that Minority Business Enterprises, if given a level playing field, can be productive in this arena.”

About the Author

Marcus DiNitto

Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor for Gaming Today. He has been managing editor at SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, The Linemakers, and USA Sports Gaming. Marcus earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

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