While retail sports betting has debuted at five casinos in Maryland, the date for the online sports betting launch in the state is still unknown.
According to MD Lottery officials, the delay in the mobile launch is due to various reasons.
John A. Martin, director of Maryland Lottery & Gaming, talked to PlayMaryland about why this process is so complex. He also explained why a launch date is not yet on the books.
Next steps to online sports betting launch in Maryland
Maryland’s sports gambling legislation created an independent group called the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC). The group of political appointees works with the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency on the approval of licenses.
Martin said the SWARC must complete a few key steps before mobile sports betting launches:
- The SWARC needs to create application guidelines, including a set of regulations to govern the process.
- The SWARC must provide a specific timeframe in which applicants can submit their applications.
However, Martin said he’s not sure which applicants initially would be eligible for a mobile license.
Maryland’s sports wagering law includes a provision for an “alternative licensing standard.” According to Martin, this allows an accelerated process for operators that are currently licensed in at least three other states with licensing standards equivalent to those in Maryland.
As a result, businesses that qualify for this alternative licensing standard could go through the licensing process more quickly than others.
Approval process for MD mobile sports betting
Maryland’s approval process for mobile sports betting is the same process for retail sports betting.
- 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 it is in the public interest that it be awarded a license. The SWARC also reviews the applicant’s business and diversity plan, which are key considerations in Maryland.
- The 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, the SWARC formally approves the license.
- MD Lottery and Gaming formally issues the license to the applicant. The agency conducts a detailed surveillance check, security check, background check and audit before issuing a license.
Recently, we’ve seen that this process can take a few months to complete. In October the MD Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) issued preliminary license approval to five online casinos in Maryland. Officials then made progress in November, when the SWARC awarded the licenses to the casinos. However, those casinos didn’t launch sports betting operations until December.
Martin said there isn’t a preliminary timeline on how long this process could take for mobile sports betting. However, he said Maryland Lottery and Gaming is ready to work with the SWARC to expedite this process.
Officials eye September 2022 for online launch
Without any application guidelines for mobile sports wagering, though, it’s unclear if September is a realistic expectation.
Nonetheless, Martin tells PlayMaryland that the MLGCC is eager to make this process as efficient as possible:
“It’s common knowledge that 80% to 90% of sports wagering occurs via online or mobile platforms, so launching that component is critical. Without it, we can’t build the scale that’s necessary to generate the revenue that the businesses are expecting and the education funding levels that the state is expecting.”