The start date for legal sports wagering in Maryland is still unknown, and John Martin said the delay in progress is due to the “complex” legislation.
Martin, the director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said that complexity is partially contributing to increasingly agonizing delays.
After all, Martin said, Maryland sports betting legislation is unlike any other in the nation.
John Martin Sports Gambling Legislation in Maryland
On Tuesday, John Martin joined the VIXIO GamblingCompliance “Meet the Regulators” webinar to discuss the future of sports gambling in Maryland.
Martin joined regulators from Louisiana and Arizona, states that have already launched sports betting in their markets, during the one-hour session.
Throughout the discussion, Martin highlighted the three primary reasons why Maryland sports wagering hasn’t even got out of the starting gate.
MD Lottery and Gaming’s relationship with SWARC
Maryland’s sports gambling legislation created an independent group called the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) to collaborate with the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency on the approval of licenses.
Once the latter group approves a potential sports betting licensee, the SWARC then has to give approval too. But those approvals have yet to happen.
According to Martin, the two agencies have yet to work together well.
“That’s work in process, and when you realize that we may have another 12 or 24 months of this, we absolutely have to find a way to work with the SWARC to make this happen,” he said.
A SWARC meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18, will hopefully bring some resolution for key stakeholders.
Over 100 potential sports betting licenses in limbo
Martin said the delay in progress is also because of the number of licenses up for approval.
The sports gambling legislation in Maryland allows 17 land-based facilities to be the first wave of applicants for license approvals. Along with those entities, there will be a competition of for up to 30 brick-and-mortar licenses (retail sports betting) and 60 mobile licenses (online sports betting).
Martin said the full process could take some time simply due to the vast number of potential operators:
“That’s potentially 107 licenses in the state of Maryland. … So you’re looking at the enormity of the task potentially here in Maryland when you look at the upside.”
Sports gambling legislation in favor of small businesses
Maryland’s sports gambling legislation also requires MD Lottery and Gaming to allow small, minority and women-owned businesses to be stakeholders in sports gambling.
Through numerous licenses and a grant program for these minority business owners, the state’s goal is to offer them equity in sports gambling. Application fees from bigger businesses in the industry will fund the grant program.
Martin said this process is evolving but all parties need to come together to make this happen.
“We’ve done as much as we can at MD Lottery and Gaming,” he said. “We have already qualified five of the applicants that have fulfilled their application requirements, and we have turned them over to the SWARC for the final award.”
Maryland’s approval process for licensing
Besides Maryland’s “complex” sports gambling legislation, Martin said there is a four-step approval process for licensing. That process also takes some time.
He said the agency is only halfway through that process for the five casinos that received preliminary approval. Those casinos include:
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
- Live! Casino & Hotel
- MGM National Harbor
- Hollywood Casino Perryville
- Oceans Down
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the approval process:
- The SWARC determines the suitability of the applicant. This process includes reviewing if the applicant is suitable to be a sports wagering entity and if is it in the public interest that it be awarded a license. SWARC also reviews the applicant’s business plan and diversity plan.
- SWARC then passes the applicant to MD Lottery and Gaming for the qualification phase. In this phase, MD Lottery and Gaming determines the financial strength and integrity of the applicant. This includes a criminal background check.
- Once MD Lottery and Gaming qualifies the applicant, SWARC awards the license to the applicant.
- MD Lottery and Gaming issues the license to the applicant. Before a license is issued, the agency conducts a detailed surveillance check, security check, background check and audit. It also reviews the applicant’s responsible gaming plans and training programs before issuing the license.
According to Martin, he doesn’t know what the third step of the approval process looks like or how long it will take.
Currently, SWARC is reviewing the supplemental ownership information that the five casinos submitted. On Thursday, that review will hopefully conclude.