‘It’s Not That Hard, Larry’: Examining Maryland Sports Betting Comments

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Maryland sports betting

Maryland sports betting regulators have 351 pages of public comments to consider before they hope to finalize rules later this month.

The 30-day public comment period for the MD sports betting regulations ended Sept. 27. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency posted the written comments on its website Thursday.

Many of the topics were similar to those from the Sept. 22 public meeting on the regulations, including a uniform launch date and the use of official league data. Dozens of parties submitted written comments, including most major US sportsbook operators and professional sports leagues.

MD sports betting path toward launch

MLGCA Managing Director of Organizational Compliance James Butler said he hopes to present the comments to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission by Oct. 10. The Maryland Register could then publish the final regulations Oct. 22.

The 17 establishments named in Maryland sports betting legislation will likely open retail sportsbooks this fall, according to MLGCA Director John Martin.

The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission is still working through how it will award the 30 Class B and 60 mobile licenses, which are competitively bid.

Marylanders waiting a year for sports betting

Several eager residents chimed in, asking the agency to expedite the process:

“It’s ridiculous that it is the start of football season and Maryland residents are still waiting to make a legal sports bet,” James M. wrote. “Sports wagering was approved by the voters months ago. Brick and Mortar operations and mobile apps are ready to go. And still, the state can’t [get] it right. Hire some people from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or Delaware, or any other state that has competent people who can get it done.

“It’s not that hard, Larry.”

Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020. Gov. Larry Hogan signed enacting legislation this spring and regulators have pushed to prepare for the launch this fall.

Official league data major point of contention

MLB, NBA and PGA Tour representatives wrote in to support official league data requirements. They suggest the requirement helps improves integrity protections.

“The use of official league data is critical in a modern sports betting marketplace, where in-game betting and micro-betting continue to rise in popularity,” MLB Senior Counsel Marquest Meeks wrote. “Official league data is superior to alternative forms of data in every way that matters for building a safe and robust sports betting marketplace.”

Multiple operators requested the requirement be removed, or at least limit the mandate to in-play wagers. LSR legal writer John Holden submitted comments and chronicled his opposition to the data requirements in Maryland.

The league representatives also want say in types of wagers operators offer. They also want operators to work with the governing bodies on investigations into integrity-related incidents.

Uniform mobile sports betting launch date

PointsBet Compliance Officer Nate Reed asked for an “equal starting line for all 17 legislatively named entities” to apply for mobile licenses and launch online operations.

“Clearly, the state believes that the 17 entities have similar quality of ownership, personnel, vision and experience to usher in this historic new era of legal sports wagering in the state of Maryland, and we believe it is of the utmost importance to allow each entity to commence mobile operations together once the state is ready to begin mobile operations,” Reed wrote.

iDEA Growth Spokesperson John Pappas wrote that regulators should prioritize launching online operations as soon as possible.

Promotional play limitations

Operators also want the cap for promotional play removed. Currently, following the first year of operation, operators can issue no more than 20 percent of the total sports betting revenue generated the year prior in promos.

“The Maryland General Assembly made the deliberate decision not to place a cap on the amount of free promotional play that sports wagering licensees may issue and acknowledged the vital role that free promotional play holds in converting sports bettors from the illegal, offshore sports wagering market to legal, regulated market,” Cory Fox, FanDuel government affairs and product counsel vice president, wrote.

“We strongly urge the Commission to follow the intent of the legislature and strike [the proposed rule].”

Responsible sports betting stipulations

Several responsible gaming proponents recommended lowering the maximum wager limit from $5 million to $100,000 or less. On the other side, several sportsbook operators asked for the MLGCC to eliminate the limit altogether.

The commenters asking for a lower limit also asked to prohibit credit card deposits.