The next meeting of the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission is a highly anticipated event for many in the commonwealth. The operators of three potential future MD retail sportsbooks are among the crowd who will be watching with bated breath.
Just ahead of a SWARC meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18, three Maryland casinos that are anxious to start taking bets sent a joint letter to the commission’s members.
It asks them to give final approval to their license applications, which could clear the way for wagering to begin within weeks.
Maryland retail sportsbooks press the issue in letter
According to Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters, the casinos want their licenses now. The letter says MD law obligates the commission to award them licenses as three of 17 entities explicitly mentioned in the latest gambling expansion law.
The parties to the joint letter are:
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore: Caesars Sportsbook
- Live! Casino and Hotel: FanDuel Sportsbook
- MGM National Harbor: BetMGM Sportsbook
The casinos have been working on getting their physical spaces ready for sports betting. Additionally, the licensees have preliminary approval from the MD Lottery & Gaming Control Commission. Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs also have provisional approval. They did not join the other three casinos in this letter, however.
The SWARC plans to meet at 8 a.m. remotely on Thursday. Potential license approval is at the top of the agenda. If they do approve the licenses, that will mean one of the final regulatory hurdles to the casinos actually starting to take bets would be in the rearview mirror.
John Martin, the Director of the MD Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, said retail sportsbooks could ramp up within 45 days of license approval. Each facility would still have to undergo regulatory testing. What is quite certain is that if the SWARC delays license approval again or if it denies such approval, more action could be forthcoming.
SWARC treading on thin ice with gambling interests
Reading the tea leaves reveals potential trouble for the SWARC. After the SWARC declined to vote on licenses in its previous meeting, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan alluded to possible litigation.
“It’s a problem,” Hogan stated, “and I’m sure they’re all going to be sued by all the people whose licenses have already been approved.”
No one would have better standing to bring such a complaint than the three casinos involved in the letter. They could make a similar argument in their lawsuit. That is, the SWARC is refusing to fulfill its mandate.
Additionally, they could argue that the inaction is doing irreparable harm to their businesses. Each day of the NFL season that passes means lost revenue for them. That not only includes actual handle from sports wagers but auxiliary revenue such as beverage and food sales.
The joint letter does not threaten such litigation if the commission doesn’t approve the applications. However, if Hogan’s reading the room right, that would be the casinos’ next move.
The SWARC could avoid such a scenario by granting license approvals for these hopeful Maryland retail sportsbooks on Thursday morning. Three MD casinos are making it clear they are already done waiting. Another delay could mean more serious action.