MD Regulator ‘Confident’ Mobile Sports Betting Launches This Year

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MD sports betting

The head of Maryland‘s gaming regulator said he’s “confident” mobile MD sports betting will launch this year.

John Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, gave his most positive statement yet around online Maryland sports betting at VIXIO‘s Meet the Regulators webinar Tuesday.

“I am confident there will be mobile wagering in the state of Maryland in 2022,” Martin said.

The timeline of a late November to mid-December launch fits what he told LSR last month.

OH sports betting applicants have wild questions

Regulators from Massachusetts and Ohio joined Martin to discuss their different paths to launch sports betting in their states.

There are up to 40 standalone retail Ohio sports betting licenses available, which has brought some small businesses into the regulatory process, Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler said.

With “little exception,” the experienced operators have kept pace with the CCC and been easy to deal with, Schuler said. Along with issues turning in all necessary paperwork, some of those smaller businesses asked questions that shows their inexperience with sports betting:

While the MA sports betting application process is not yet open, Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein laughed and said it sounds like all three regulators have dealt with similar issues.

Some MD sports betting applicants inexperienced, too

Martin said he was laughing at the questions Schuler offered, but said he has had similar issues.

“You have to be a little schizophrenic,” Martin said. “I mean, you deal with the experienced licensees and operators who know it and are in that business internationally and it is a totally different experience than the newcomers and the first-timers.”

Martin pointed to how the enabling legislation approved 17 entities to take part in MD sports betting. Most of them are first-timers and are still not live for a variety of reasons despite retail betting launching in Maryland last December, he added.

“It is very difficult when you’re dealing with people who aren’t prepared with the invasiveness of the investigations, the numerous operational requirements, how strictly we enforce regulations,” Martin said. “Yeah, we do. All those checkboxes are important on the forms, they’re there for a reason.”

Schuler: Inexperienced operators do not understand economics

Schuler opened his comments discussing how applicants for those 40 standalone books expect more revenue than they might get:

“It seems to me that those businesses in Ohio that would like to partner with a sportsbook and open one of these, have a truly fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of sports gaming.”

Some even think they can generate revenue similar to an Ohio casino, he added. Educating them about the realities of US sports betting has not helped.

“So despite our efforts to provide them with objective data and economic studies – we don’t want folks paying the license fees and going through all of this only to have the plane crash – they are nevertheless determined, much like Coronado, to find their own city of gold.”

Maryland, meanwhile, has up to 60 standalone mobile betting licenses available. Martin said it will be interesting to see how many inexperienced applicants move onto the next step in the process.

Do not try to get around OH ad laws

One of the submitted questions asked if there was a specific way for advertisements to word promo offers in Ohio. Ohio has tight rules on promos, including not calling anything free or risk-free when a deposit is required.

“If they’re asking is there a clever, legal way that they can avoid that and still entice their customers, not as far as I’m concerned,” Schuler said. “I think you ought to say what you mean and mean what you say. And I don’t think it ought to be fine print and we will be scrutinizing those very closely.

“… if you use the word free, it better be free.”

(Not) breaking: still no MA sports betting launch date

Anyone paying attention to the rollout of sports betting in Massachusetts knows better than to expect a launch timeline by now. Still, Judd-Stein was asked about a potential launch date.

“I’d love to give you a straight-up answer but I’m probably going to have to pass,” she said.

Judd-Stein encouraged everyone to watch the MGC meetings for more updates with the next one scheduled for Thursday.

One of the ongoing issues in Massachusetts is a mistake in legislation concerning temporary licenses. The legislation does not limit those temporary licenses and essentially guarantees one to operators willing to pay the $1 million fee.

The MGC has spoken to members of the legislature about a potential fix but there is a way forward without that as well, Judd-Stein said.