It appears Maryland sports betting will not launch until 2022.
At its meeting last week, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission did not award retail sports betting licenses to five casinos approved by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.
That inaction is likely to push the MD sports betting launch past Jan. 1, 2022, according to a statement Thursday from Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director John Martin.
“We’re obviously disappointed by the lack of progress in yesterday’s SWARC meeting, but we’re pleased that we’ve moved forward in other areas,” Martin said. “At this point, we are hoping to make the NFL playoffs in January and the Super Bowl in February.”
No flipping a switch on Maryland sportsbooks
Based on comments at Wednesday’s SWARC meeting, commissioners appear ready to award the five licenses at their Nov. 18 meeting. SWARC members asked for more information on the casinos’ ownership structures.
If SWARC awards those retail licenses Nov. 18, it could be up to 45 days before sportsbooks open, Martin said. The MLGCA still needs to sign off on a variety of internal matters at the casinos before issuing licenses.
“There are numerous steps that don’t involve SWARC, and we are working closely with each facility to complete those tasks,” Marin said. “We’re also continuing investigations of additional facility applicants so we can forward more of them to the SWARC. We are forging ahead in spite of the delays.”
Steps to go for retail MD sports betting
The MLGCC approved the MLGCA’s alternative licensing standards for the five casinos, as they already are licensed gaming operators in Maryland. There are 12 more facilities named in Maryland sports betting legislation the MLGCA is working to move on to the SWARC.
Still, the facilities must complete more steps:
- MLGCC approve licenses for sports wagering contractors and staff.
- MLGCA staff approve documented elements of sports betting operations at the five locations.
- Facilities must verify staff training in sports betting.
- Once SWARC awards the licenses, the facilities must perform live betting with MLGCA staff watching.
The MLGCC can issue the licenses once those steps are complete.
“We’re making progress on as much of this as we can now,” Martin said. “If the SWARC awards the licenses on Nov. 18 and all goes well, that would mean a launch date somewhere around the first of the year.”
Mobile betting wait even longer
The SWARC is also determining how to award the competitive bid licenses: up to 30 additional retail and 60 mobile.
Martin previously said mobile sports betting could be up to 12 months away in Maryland.
Maryland sports betting moving slowly
Maryland residents voted for sports betting in November 2020 and Gov. Larry Hogan signed enacting legislation in May 2021. The SWARC moved forward the 17 named entities to the MLGCA at its first meeting in August.
The MLGCC approved the alternative licensing standards for the casinos at its October meetings. The SWARC canceled its Oct. 14 meeting, then did not act on the five at its meeting Wednesday.
The SWARC inaction has upset residents, which has Hogan urging the commission to award the licenses quickly. He first tweeted out the SWARC email in October and this week brought up potential behind-the-scenes delays.
“It appears as if the legislature and the staff of the legislature and even the attorney for the legislature are pressuring that commission to delay things as long as possible, until they can do all of the other, brand-new licenses where companies haven’t even yet been formed, haven’t really applied, [and] haven’t been vetted,” Hogan said Wednesday at a press conference.
“If in fact they don’t act immediately and approve [the five casinos] … it’s going to be at least a year or more before anyone gets the ability to do gambling in Maryland. And potentially it could kill the entire deal.”