Maryland players could have more online sportsbook options any day now, as five licensed sportsbook apps are completing final steps toward receiving the green light.
Three are expected to launch in February, while two others should open by mid-March, according to a Maryland gaming official. And all of them will certainly offer lucrative welcome offers to Marylanders.
Three online sportsbooks on deck in Maryland
Maryland online sports betting began on Nov. 23 last year. At that time, seven mobile sportsbooks were available to Maryland players. Anticipation now grows by the day, as Marylanders continue waiting for others to join them.
Fortunately, the wait should be over soon. During the January Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) meeting, State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency Chief of Staff James Butler said:
“Most of the [10 initial] awardees have gone live with their operational sportsbooks. Three of the awardees will have their mobile sportsbooks operational sometime in the next month.”
Betfred, Fanatics could debut online this month
Betfred Sportsbook, which debuted a retail sportsbook at Long Shot’s five days prior to Maryland’s online launch, was one of three operators to remain on the sidelines. The other two were Fanatics, which has since opened its retail sportsbook at FedEx Field, and BetParx.
At December’s meeting, SWARC awarded two more licenses to Bally Bet and WynnBet, making five total approved operators yet to launch mobile sportsbooks. It also gave a retail license to a second Long Shot’s location in Hagerstown.
So, the three operators set to launch in February are the three remaining operators initially awarded licenses from SWARC.
Recent developments muddy this slightly, as Fanatics reportedly considers acquiring BetParx. This acquisition, however, could help expedite Fanatics’ overall entry into online sports betting.
SWARC receives diversity plans from December’s awardees
At the end of January’s meeting, Butler said the commission had received diversity plans from Bally’s, Wynn and Long Shot’s Hagerstown. They will be the subject of the next SWARC meeting on Feb. 15.
While the diversity plans are requisite for all operators, they seem unrelated to gaining license approval. Brown mentioned that Fanatics, Betfred and Parx would become operational regardless — just like the others were open for nearly two months before their diversity plans were approved.
Mid-March launch for Bally Bet and WynnBet?
SWARC is incentivized to allow Bally Bet and WynnBet sportsbooks to open in time for the March 14 start date of the March Madness NCAA men’s basketball tournament. After next weekend’s Super Bowl, it will mark the most significant three weeks of sports betting until next fall.
Upon launch, these sportsbooks will likely offer an abundance of sports betting promotions to new customers, driving action. As a result, sportsbooks will initially be less profitable, meaning less money for the state.
So, will SWARC wait until after the tournament to bring in more books? Probably not.
Sportsbooks will need to curb spending at some point to show a profit not only for shareholders but also for future promotional budgets. Spending is unlimited in the first year, but future budgets are capped at 20% of the year’s tax contribution. Thus, this shouldn’t affect Bally’s and Wynn’s abilities to gain final approval.
We expect to hear news of their launch dates early next month.