Despite pressure from Gov. Larry Hogan, regulators still provided no timeline for the launch of online sports betting in Maryland.
The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) met Thursday and provided some updates that show progress, but no definitive timeline for online sports betting in Maryland. The meeting also included a response from SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt to the governor, who published a letter Wednesday urging an online launch by Sept. 8.
“I understand many are frustrated that the process of the issue has been time-consuming,” Brandt said while detailing the legal hurdles the commission is navigating. “I also want everyone to know that SWARC and its support team have been working as diligently and deliberately as we can. SWARC is and has been working through these legal requirements.”
Key updates for Maryland sports betting
In Hogan’s letter, he pushed the SWARC to expedite the launch of MD sports betting and asked for definitive action on several items, including a timeline. Commissioners still did not set a timeline but provided a few glimpses that the end soon might be in sight.
Committee consultant Kim Copp said draft applications for the competitive Class B and mobile licenses will be sent to commissioners early next week. Last year, the Maryland Department of Legislative Services contracted Taft to act as the SWARC’s legal consultant.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency COO Jim Nielsen said draft regulations are 95% finished and also will be sent to commissioners next week. The commission set a special June 29 meeting date to review and release the drafts.
Maryland background check system going online
Nielsen also said the agency’s eLicensing platform will open Friday to all businesses hoping to win a Class B license. The MLGCA uses the system to initiate the necessary background investigations for potential operators.
The background checks are for Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission operator qualification. The SWARC will award licenses to qualified operators based on its application process.
“The MLGCC’s investigations and the SWARC’s application process may not have the same starting point, but it’s always been the plan for them to unfold on parallel tracks,” MLGCA Director John Martin said in a release Thursday. “Some investigations could take several months, so now is a great opportunity for all potential applicants to get the ball rolling.”
MD retail sports betting update
Along with the up to 30 retail and 60 mobile licenses the SWARC can award, MD sports betting legislation named 17 entities for retail sportsbooks. Five casinos opened sportsbooks in December 2021.
Another four businesses are working through final approvals to open retail sportsbooks.
Of the 17 named entities, three have not initiated any activity with the MLGCA.
Lengthy sports betting process in Maryland
Hogan’s letter came as Maryland bettors become increasingly frustrated at the inability to place online bets. By the time online MD sports betting launches, it will likely have been more than two years since voters approved sports betting in 2020.
Hogan signed enacting legislation in May 2021. That legislation created the SWARC to award competitive licenses and ensure an inclusive industry in the state.
The SWARC has met monthly since August 2021, with little public progress made. The governor also applied public pressure on regulators last fall to help launch retail sports betting.