Despite First Super Bowl, February Maryland Sports Betting Handle Dips To $25.5 Million

Posted on March 10, 2022

The February Maryland sports betting handle suffered a month-over-month decline. It’s the first time in the incredibly short history of Maryland sports betting that the market experienced a contraction.

The state’s five sportsbooks accepted $25.5 million worth of sports bets in February, according to state regulators. This comes after those same operators handled $32.5 million worth of wagers in January.

February was just the second full month of sports betting in Maryland. The market launched in the middle of last December. Marylanders bet $16.5 million during the limited December timeframe.

Super Bowl was expected to boost February Maryland sports betting handle

Given the sports calendar in February, the dip in betting handle came as a shock to the industry. There was a full slate of NBA and NHL games. But more importantly, it was the first time Maryland bettors could wager on the Super Bowl.

The NFL’s championship game is always one of the biggest events on the sports betting calendar. As a result, sportsbooks in most markets post massive handle and revenue numbers.

Typically, even the most casual gamblers will place a bet on the game. But for some reason, that trend didn’t happen in the Old Line State.

At this point, explaining why that is would be a complete guess.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission doesn’t release a breakdown of which bets are made on what sports. Instead, it’s just a compilation of everything wagered. It makes an in-depth analysis of why next to impossible.

Aside from the decline in the handle, the generalized data points to a key February trend.

Smart money flooded the market

The sportsbooks’ average hold percentage dropped precipitously from the previous reports.

In January, the sportsbooks posted a hold percentage of 13.4%. That figure fell to just 3.7% in February. The national average is between 5% and 7%.

Live! Casino posted the lowest hold percentage in January with 9.9%. In February, only the two smallest sportsbooks posted percentages greater than 5%.

The Super Bowl is typically the driving force for a rising handle in February. But it’s also the likely cause of the drop in hold.

Casual bettors flooding the market tend to bet in the same direction, whichever that may be. It leaves the sportsbooks overexposed to one side of the bet. Furthermore, the “dumb money” won’t be tempted to take the other side as bookmakers adjust the point spread and odds.

For example, when the New England Patriots both won the Super Bowl and covered the spread in 2019, Rhode Island sportsbooks posted a loss for the month.

With hometown fans piling on their favorite team and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams resulted in Rhode Island sportsbooks posting a $900,000 loss in February 2019.

Without seeing any real data, it seems likely a lot of the Maryland market bet on the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati lost to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20, but the 3-point loss was good enough to cover the spread.

The spread was typically either 4 or 4.5 points, depending on the sportsbook, but either way, Bengals bettors got the payout. Gamblers who bet on the Rams could only win with a moneyline wager, which is generally less popular among bettors.

February Maryland sports betting breakdown

CasinoHandleRevenueHold %
MGM National Harbor$7,508,465-$3,8100.2%
Live! Casino$11,102,260$520,8064.9%
Horseshoe Baltimore$3,905,174$131,7613.6%
Ocean Downs Casino$1,118,267$140,91612.9%
Hollywood Casino Perryville$1,891,979$104,0365.7%
Totals$25,526,147$893,7103.7%

MGM National Harbor’s BetMGM sportsbook posted the worst hold percentage of the five properties. After their deductions, which includes their federal tax bill, the property reported losing $3,810 for the month.

MGM recorded the second-highest handle at $7.5 million. Live! Casino accepted the most wagers with $11.1 million wagered at their FanDuel-branded sportsbook.

The handle was down pretty evenly across the board with three properties experiencing a drop of between 20% and 30%. Horseshoe Casino saw a 16.7% drop in handle, but Hollywood Casino saw a sizable handle increase.

  • MGM National Harbor: -28.9%
  • Live! Casino: -22.6%
  • Horseshoe Casino: -16.7%
  • Ocean Downs Casino: -20.7%
  • Hollywood Casino Perryville: +25%

While these casinos saw a decline in sports betting, their overall gambling revenue saw increases in February. Non-sports betting gambling totaled nearly $163 million in February, which was a $9.2 million increase from January.

With a 15% tax on gross revenue, the sportsbooks paid $134,628 to the state government.

The Maryland sports betting market has been in business for roughly 10 weeks.

During that timeframe, the total handle is $74.6 million, and the average hold percentage is 11.4%. The five properties have combined to win $8.3 million. Live! Casino has the largest handle and revenue.

It’s possible that a sixth sportsbook enters the market soon as a bingo hall passed the first steps to be approved for a sports betting license.

Photo by Shutterstock / SewCream
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Steve Schult

Steve Schult has covered the gambling world for the last decade. With stints as a staff writer for the World Series of Poker and Bluff Magazine, as well as the online content manager for Card Player Media, the New York native covered high-stakes poker tournaments and the overall casino industry. He’ll shift most of his focus to the Virginia, Maryland and Florida markets as a managing editor for Catena Media.

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