Governor? What Governor? Maryland Sports Betting Committee Plods On

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Maryland sports betting

Mobile Maryland sports betting took a small, incremental step forward Wednesday.

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission met to hear draft regulations and applications for the competitive bid licenses for sports betting in Maryland. Beyond light discussion, the SWARC did not take any additional actions, and there is still no definitive timeline for launch.

The committee essentially shrugged off the concerns of Gov. Larry Hogan. Last week, Hogan sent a letter applying pressure on the SWARC to expedite the launch of mobile sports betting to meet his Sept. 8 launch goal.

The commission could approve the regulations and applications at its next meeting, which is scheduled for July 20. There will be 60 mobile and 30 retail licenses available in Maryland.

Time of the essence in Maryland

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency opened an eLicensing portal earlier this month so applicants can begin filling out information for background checks. MLGCA COO Jim Nielsen said several operators have already submitted applications.

Maryland sports betting legislation created the SWARC, which has added bureaucratic complexity and delays to the sports betting process.

Now through two meetings since Hogan’s letter, the commission has all but ignored his pressure. While discussing the application drafts, committee consultant Kim Copp said applicants would be required to detail their path to market.

“Of course, speed to market is somewhat important to the state,” Copp said.

Light discussion about drafts

SWARC commissioners did not ask many questions during the meeting. There was some discussion on if the retail application is too comprehensive.

“Are we overdoing it?” SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt said. “Are we making it too hard with all the stuff we’re asking for? It’s a lot for a restaurant or a startup.”

Committee consultant Michael J. Schaller said the applications would help weed out unqualified and unprepared operators. Nielsen said the applications are more detailed than lottery retailer applications because the operations will not receive the infrastructure provided by the lottery.

Steps ahead in Maryland sports betting

Once the SWARC approves the regulations, they will go to the MD General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. The regulations also need a 30-day public review period and publishing in the Maryland Register.

There could be several rounds of changes to the regulations based on reception through those steps. It appears it will be nearly August at the earliest before those steps begin.

Brandt hopes the SWARC can begin accepting applications in late summer. The SWARC will award licenses to operators through its application process, but the MLGCA must also find the entities qualified.

Maryland sports betting diversity efforts up in the air

One of the SWARC’s primary duties is to ensure minority- and women-owned business inclusion in the MD sports betting industry. Brandt said a disparity study is still in progress to determine if extra efforts will be required.

The commissioners went into a closed session to end Wednesday’s meeting to receive legal advice on diversity-related questions the applications can ask.

While Maryland bettors wait for a mobile launch, five retail sportsbooks are open. Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020.