Ahead of a Maryland sports betting regulatory meeting Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan applied some pressure on commissioners to act.
Hogan released a letter Wednesday demanding the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission expedite the launch of mobile sports betting in Maryland. The governor wants online betting available by the start of NFL betting on Sept. 8.
“Instead of decisive action to implement the voters’ decision, you have allowed the process to stagnate and become mired in overly bureaucratic procedures that have needlessly delayed the state’s ability to maximize the revenue potential of this emerging industry,” Hogan said in the letter. “Sports fans in Maryland simply want to be able to place bets on their mobile devices – that’s what they voted for, and they are angry and discouraged over SWARC’s inability to make it happen.”
Why the pressure in Maryland?
Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020, with legislators passing the enacting laws in May 2021. The legislation created the SWARC, which lawmakers tasked with creating the guidelines to award the state’s 60 mobile sports betting licenses.
The SWARC is also responsible for ensuring the inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in the MD sports betting industry. However, the commission has met monthly since August 2021 with no real action taken.
The commission is waiting on a disparity study to determine if it needs to make special accommodations for the minority- and women-owned businesses. That study did not launch until March 2022.
Hogan’s MD sports betting outline
In his letter to SWARC, Hogan asked commissioners for definitive actions on several main points. Among those points:
- Prioritize awarding mobile licenses to retail entities named in the original legislation
- Set a timeline
- Release drafts of the sports wagering applications and regulations
- Approve mobile sports licenses on a rolling basis
In the letter, he notes the delay is because of “an overly complex piece of legislation” and “bureaucratic hurdles and legal obstacles placed by the Office of the Attorney General.” It is not the first time Hogan expressed displeasure over sports betting delays.
Key takeaways from Maryland governor’s demands
Hogan wants to provide the state’s bettors with a firm date when they can expect to place online wagers. Beyond that, he wants the 17 entities named for retail locations in the legislation to be qualified for mobile betting.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency already vetted those businesses for the industry. Six of those are owned by companies already licensed for mobile sports betting in other states. Because those operators are already established in the industry, Hogan believes they can receive a quicker path to market.
Pushing those operators to launch will then allow the SWARC to focus on the minority- and women-owned business inclusion, Hogan said.
“Mobile sports wagering will be dominant in Maryland, just as it is in other states,” Hogan said. “The ongoing delay is preventing Maryland from fully and properly tapping into this market.”
Retail sports betting revenue in Maryland
There are five open retail sportsbooks in Maryland.
Those five sportsbooks took $23.1 million in May wagers, according to an MLGCA report this month. The operators held 13.3% for nearly $3.1 million in revenue.
The FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino led the way with $10.9 million in bets.