Regulatory hurdles have slowed any chance of launching Maryland sports betting by Sept. 9.
Several steps remain before a launch can happen, starting with the official printing of 200 or so pages of sports betting regulations in an official state listing called the Maryland Register. The regulations were approved by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission on July 15, but had yet to appear in the Register as of Aug. 13.
Licensing itself will be a two-step process involving awarding of licenses by the newly-created Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) and issuing of licenses by the state lottery commission., with dozens of licenses available for both named and yet-unnamed venues plus other licensees.
The first of 100 or so licenses available under the state’s sports betting law signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in May will be a smattering of retail licenses awarded to pro sports venues, Pimlico/Laurel horse racetracks, and casinos named in the law. Seven more designated retail licenses will be split between the state fairgrounds, designated OTBs and bingo halls.
Issuance of an additional 30 competitive retail licenses and up to 60 mobile sports betting launch could come much later, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
“For a business that is not named in the Sports Wagering Law, the review by SWARC and a licensing background investigation could take between 12 and 24 months from May 2021,” says the agency’s website.
What’s Next For Maryland?
Matthew Bennett with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services staffs SWARC for the department. He told the commission members at their first meeting today that the first licenses to be awarded will be those named by law, also known as Class A licenses and the seven designated Class Bs.
“The first thing is to begin awarding the licenses to applicants designed by law, the noncompetitive licenses,” Bennett said. Although designated by law, the licenses must still be voted on by SWARC. They can then be issued by the lottery commission.
Designated licenses would go to the following:
- Three stadiums/pro sports teams: Oriole Park, M&T Bank Stadium, FedEx Field
- Three casinos with over 1,000 VLTs: Horseshoe, Live!, MGM
- Three casinos with fewer than 1,000 VLTs: Hollywood, Ocean Downs, Rocky Gap
- Laurel/Pimlico tracks (one license)
Seven Class B:
- The state fairgrounds
- Four OTBS: Greenmount Station, The Jockey Bar and Grille, Long Shot’s, Riverboat on the Potomac
- Two commercial bingo halls with at least 200 machines: Bingo World, Rod N’ Reel
Deciding how competitive licenses will be awarded will come after the noncompetitive awards, Bennett told SWARC today. The panel will have to adopt a competitive scoring system to guide that licensing process — a separate regulatory process that has yet to begin.
“These are the physical licenses,” also called Class B but not designated by law, said Bennett. There are 30 of those licenses available by law.
Once they are awarded then the mobile licenses will come into play, Bennett told SWARC. There are 60 possible mobile licenses, all of which will be competitive with possible early access to companies “with a meaningful partnership with minorities, women, and minority- and women-owned businesses.”
Part of SWARC’s role under Maryland’s sports betting law is to balance racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the licensing process, while simultaneously encouraging minority and women-owned businesses to apply.
When Will SWARC Meet Next?
SWARC held its first official meeting today and will meet again in late September, which could push a sports betting launch into October or later.
That said, state officials are still hopeful for a launch this fall — and Gov. Larry Hogan is among those rooting for an earlier start.
Hogan told the media outlet Maryland Matters on Aug. 14 that he has been pushing state regulators to make sportsbooks live as soon as possible.
“I pressed them pretty hard about making sure we get it done at least by the end of football season when all the betting takes place, really — in the playoffs and the Super Bowl,” the governor was quoted as saying.