Will Maryland Sportsbooks Open In Time For NFL Season? Don’t Bet On It

Written By Derek Helling on August 17, 2021 - Last Updated on May 1, 2023
Governor Larry Hogan

Gambling regulators in the Old Line State are engaged in a tall task right now, and the speed at which they’re moving makes them anything but “Hogan’s Heroes.” In fact, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan hopes to light a fire under them.

It looks extremely doubtful that MD sportsbooks will go live in time for the start of the 2021 NFL regular season. However, Hogan isn’t giving up on the state getting most of the benefit of NFL betting.

Governor Larry Hogan to regulators: Pick up the pace

According to Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters, Hogan has “leaned on the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to move as quickly as possible.” It seems Hogan has become convinced a launch isn’t imminent, though.

As Hogan told Maryland Matters:

“They said it’s just impossible to get it done by the start of football season. I pressed them pretty hard about making sure we get it done at least by the end of football season when all the betting takes place, really — in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.”

Currently, the process is awaiting the posting of the state’s draft regulations. Once that occurs, a 30-day public comment period can begin. It isn’t clear how long the process will take from that point moving forward.

Still many steps left to launch day

After the comment period closes, regulators will meet to process the comments and make any changes. Depending on how exhaustive those alterations prove, further public comment might occur. After the revision process, regulators will vote to finalize the rules.

At that point, the MD Sports Wagering Application Review Commission and the MD Lottery & Gaming Control Agency will start reviewing license applications. Again, it’s unclear how long that will take.

After awarding the first batch of licenses, regulators will inspect operators’ systems. Those sportsbooks that pass the final inspection will then get actual go-live authorization dates. For online sports betting in MD, that come could later than for retail sportsbooks.

Getting at least brick-and-mortar sportsbooks up and running in time for the NFL playoffs is doable. Those events are still about five months away. It’s even possible that mobile sports betting apps might go live by that time, too.

At the same time, Hogan’s comments about the meat of NFL betting are quite astute. Contrary to how NFL players make most of their money during the regular season, sportsbooks do the opposite.

NFL postseason overshadows the regular season

If you look at most US jurisdictions with legal wagering, the biggest months for handle have come amid the NFL postseason. For example, in January 2021, New Jersey sportsbooks accepted more than $982.7 million in bets.

Comparatively, the same books took in approximately $748.6 million in September of last year. Why is that the case? A few factors coincide to make January and February money season for sportsbooks.

It’s partially by design. Sportsbooks tend to save their most lucrative bonus offers and push them out most frequently during those two months. Additionally, it doesn’t seem to hurt bettor interest that fewer teams are active due to the fact that the stakes of the games are higher.

The NFL also enjoys its best television ratings during the playoffs and Super Bowl, so bettor interest goes along with that. If Hogan has his way, the state treasury won’t miss out on another round of NFL playoffs.

Photo by AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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