A lengthy bureaucratic process for Maryland sports betting continues to have no end in sight.
The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Committee met again Wednesday with little movement. The SWARC is tasked with establishing guidelines for awarding competitive licenses and ensuring minority- and women-owned business participation in the MD sports betting industry.
With the continued delays in mind, an industry source recently told LSR that a launch by the 2023 Super Bowl is likely a stretch. Previously, a top MD regulator told LSR that an online MD launch might come in late 2022.
All for naught in Maryland?
Earlier this month, Spectrum Gaming and the SWARC’s advising law firm, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, hosted an educational seminar for small businesses potentially looking to apply for up to 60 competitive retail and 30 online licenses.
There were approximately 90 attendees. While Taft attorney and committee consultant Kimberly Copp said it was a “truthful, honest and successful event,” she also said there were probably five new businesses at the seminar with whom she was unfamiliar.
“I think that suggests a significant hurdle for us in attracting quality applicants for sports wagering licenses in Maryland, given the constraints that were articulated at the seminar,” SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt said during Wednesday’s meeting. “That was very worthwhile, that became a matter of record.”
Tough task for Maryland SWARC
There is a disparity study in progress to determine if SWARC needs to make special accommodations to include minority- and women-owned businesses in the MD sports betting industry. That appears to be the main holdup for online sports betting moving forward.
According to Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency communications staff Wednesday, “the analysis is in progress and we expect that it’ll be completed within the next few months.” At Wednesday’s meeting, Brandt said he believes there are plenty of business arrangements possible that can help accomplish the goal of equity and inclusion in the industry.
In the meantime, Copp said she likely would have a license application draft ready for commissioners by the next meeting on June 16. The MD Department of Legislative Services contracted Taft to act as a consultant for the SWARC last year.
Long sports betting process in Maryland
Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020 and legislators then worked to pass legislation in spring 2021. Gov. Larry Hogan signed sports betting into law May 18, 2021.
Along with the industry framework, the legislation also created the SWARC. At times, Hogan has expressed displeasure about the delayed launch of MD sports betting.
There is potential for states to launch online sports betting before Maryland despite legalizing just this year. Kansas regulators recently told LSR that a launch during the 2022 football season is likely.
Maryland retail sports betting active
Five Maryland casinos launched retail sports betting in December 2021. Those casinos took $26.9 million in bets during April 2022, holding 10.5% for $2.8 million in revenue, according to an MLGCA report this month.
Since the December launch, the casinos have handled $132.6 million in wagers.
Perhaps the lone bright spot in MD sports betting is the FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino, which took $13.3 million in April bets. That sportsbook has consistently ranked among the top retail sportsbooks in the country since it launched.
More Maryland retail sportsbooks soon?
The sports betting legislation names 17 entities to receive retail licenses.
Beyond the five casinos, another four locations are working toward opening their retail sportsbooks, MLGCA COO Jim Nielsen said during the meeting.
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