The process to launch online Maryland sports betting continues to draw on with no official launch date, but with some clues as to possibilities.
A timeline presented Wednesday to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission suggests an online MD sports betting launch is “possible” by the Super Bowl. That goal requires hitting several important regulatory goals in the coming weeks.
Regardless, Marylanders will not be betting online by Gov. Larry Hogan‘s desired start date of Sept. 8 to capture a full season of NFL betting. Hogan has expressed his displeasure with the SWARC’s bureaucratic process several times.
Maryland competitive license process
The SWARC is responsible for developing the regulations for online sports betting in Maryland and awarding licenses. Along with up to 60 mobile licenses, there are up to 30 retail licenses available through a competitive process.
According to Jim Nielsen, COO at the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, hitting the Super Bowl launch goal will require the SWARC to release applications within the next two weeks.
“Right now, we can’t determine a specific timeline for these steps, because there are many things we don’t know,” Nielsen told the SWARC. “Staff believe if the applications can be issued within the next week or two, it’s possible Marylanders can bet on the Super Bowl on a mobile platform. That is certainly everybody’s hope.”
Maryland mobile sports betting hurdles
First, a legislative review committee must approve the sports betting regulations SWARC advanced last month. The review committee should meet in time for the regulations to be published in the August 26 Maryland Register and a 30-day public comment period will follow approval.
SWARC members are also still awaiting a sports industry disparity study, which began in March. That study will tell the commission if it needs to make a special effort to include minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports betting industry.
“Recall that SWARC directed that this industry analysis be procured at our September 2021 meeting,” SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt said in his opening statement Wednesday. “Certainly, it has taken much longer to receive this analysis than any of us expected.”
MD sports betting path forward
Once released, Nielsen said there would be a 45- to 60-day timeline for applicants to finish the application. The SWARC will then have 45 days to review candidates and it will advance suitable applicants to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.
Then the MLGCC must qualify the applicant before the SWARC can award a license. A sportsbook can launch once they perform final tests for the MLGCA.
Commissioners discussed the idea of awarding licenses at one time. Because operators will pass internal tests at different speeds, the SWARC likely will award on a rolling basis. Commissioner Randy Marriner reminded his colleagues multiple times that “time is of the essence.”
New Maryland retail sportsbooks approved
The SWARC approved retail licenses for the Washington Commanders‘ FedEx Field and Chesapeake Gaming, an off-track betting facility.
Fanatics was awarded an MD sports betting operator license earlier this summer, and a report from the Washington Business Journal connected the operator to FedEx Field through construction work orders for a sportsbook.
Of the 17 entities designated for retail sportsbooks in MD sports betting legislation, the SWARC has awarded 11 licenses. Six of the retail sportsbooks are open.
Maryland retail betting slogs along
Maryland’s six retail sportsbooks handled $15.5 million in July bets. Those sportsbooks held 13.1% for $2 million in sports betting revenue.
The FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino was the top sportsbook in the state, taking $6.2 million in wagers.
With the summer sports schedule, July handle was well below the $32.6 million record handle that sportsbooks set in January.