Maryland Online Sports Betting Takes A Step Toward Launch

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The reason for the significant delay in launching online Maryland sports betting appears to be all for naught.

Thomas Brandt, the chairman of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, sent a letter to the General Assembly‘s regulatory review committee urging them to take action on MD sports betting regulations that were submitted July 22. The SWARC has worked for more than a year on the regulations and applications for competitive sports betting licenses in Maryland.

The SWARC also has waited for the results of a disparity study to determine if it needs to make extra efforts to include minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports betting industry. The study finished August 19 and concluded “SWARC is not able to apply any race- and/or gender-conscious criteria in its evaluation of applicants.”

Maryland online sports betting during football season?

Brandt’s letter asks the legislative review committee to approve emergency regulations. Once approved, the SWARC can begin the application process for the 60 competitive mobile licenses.

The SWARC has seemed to expedite its processes following a letter from Gov. Larry Hogan earlier this summer pushing for a launch by football season.

“After much work, we are nearly at the finish line, but we need your help,” Brandt wrote. “The sports wagering industry is seasonal,” and the football season annually generates much more activity than other times of the year. Thus, unless we move quickly, Marylanders will miss access to mobile wagering on the 2022 football season, and the state will miss out on the related revenue.”

While Brandt appears eager to launch and appease Hogan, a football season debut will still be tough. At the August 17 SWARC meeting, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency staff told the commission a Super Bowl launch was possible, but only if the rest of the process went smoothly.

Maryland sports betting process

The proposed MD sports betting regulations were published in the August 26 edition of the Maryland Register. The publication begins a 30-day public comment period on the proposed regulations.

Once the legislative committee approves the emergency regulations, the SWARC can release the applications. MLGCA staff said there will be a 45- to 60-day timeline for applicants to finish their applications.

The SWARC will then have 45 days to review the applicants before sending them to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission for review. If qualified by the MLGCC, a sportsbook then goes back to the SWARC, which can then award a license.

Could there be mobile betting before January?

The SWARC did expedite some of the retail sports betting processes, which helped five sportsbooks launch in December 2021.

Hogan suggested prioritizing mobile licenses for the 17 entities named in the sports betting legislation for retail sportsbooks. That would include the state’s casinos, which partnered with major sportsbook operators.

The MLGCA has already vetted those 17 entities, which could help speed up the process. The SWARC has taken much of the heat for the delay and Brandt is ready to finish their work.

“SWARC is eager to move forward and complete this process,” Brandt wrote in his concluding paragraph. “Again, on behalf of SWARC, I respectfully request that AELR render its decision promptly.”

Still pushing for diverse sports betting industry

Maryland sports betting legislation included the goal of creating a diverse and inclusive sports betting market. While the study delayed the process with no helpful advice, the SWARC included a remedy to help achieve the objective.

For each competitive license, an applicant must demonstrate at least 5% of its direct or indirect ownership is by individuals with a personal net worth of no more than $1.847 million.

“SWARC believes this requirement will present a meaningful wealth-building opportunity, particularly for mobile licensees,” Brandt wrote.