One Maryland legislator thinks the state needs to do more to open the opportunity for sports betting to satisfy the desires of the Old Line State citizens.
At a recent House Ways and Means Committee meeting, Del. Jason Buckel (R-Allegany) told Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency officials he believes the legislative intent of adding the licenses is being frustrated by the agency’s inability to accept new licenses.
“There’s a lot of dead spots, I guess I would say,” Buckel said, according to Maryland Matters. “There’s very few on the Eastern Shore. For Montgomery County with 1.1 million people, there’s one in all of Montgomery County. There’s dead spots kind of all over the state.”
Sports betting licenses left on the table in MD
Online sports betting in Maryland launched in November 2022, beginning with three licensees that joined 10 retail and eight mobile active sportsbooks already in operation.
As of September 2023, that has grown to both a dozen physical retail locations and a dozen mobile sports wagering apps, with another 10 in the process of approval.
This is in addition to 17 automatic licensees, such as the state’s six casinos, Maryland State Fairgrounds, and the Pimlico and Laurel race courses, as well as other stadiums and betting parlors, which face no hurdles to being granted a license beyond the simple need to apply.
However, this is well under the number of licenses authorized under 2021 law, which allows for 30 licensed physical locations and up to 60 mobile licenses. The application window for licenses closed last October, leaving almost one third of physical licenses mothballed.
Buckel believes bars and restaurants could be sets of businesses that would be interested in adding sports betting to add extra revenue to the books. He intends to sponsor legislation that would reopen the application window and allow applications for the remaining licenses for physical sportsbooks operations, according to the report.
Market fluctuations a key for license decisions
“There is currently no provision in law to offer another enrollment period,” John Martin, director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said at the committee meeting.
Martin also claimed that there is no immediate demand for the remaining licenses.
“No one has been beating down our door saying let me in,” Martin said. “We may even see further consolidation in the sports wagering industry. That’s just the reality of it. The numbers here are just not sustainable.”
This is supported by instability in the Maryland sports betting market. Regulators anticipate greater consolidations. WynnBet recently shut down operations in eight markets. Having never taken a sports bet in Maryland, WynnBet officials told regulators that they would return the licenses awarded to them.
Future growth of sports betting in Maryland
Despite these difficulties, state agencies reported $25 million in sports wagering tax revenues last year and expect that figure to grow to $30 million in 2023. This growth is primarily driven by mobile apps, through which 95% of all bets were conducted.
James Butler, assistant deputy director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, told the committee that it would be prudent to wait six months to a year for the market to settle and to see, “whether they’re going to be sort of mergers and acquisitions, especially on the mobile front.”