Three states are in the midst of finalizing official regulations for online sports betting: Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio. The latter of these states has already announced a specific launch date, while the other two have only offered rough estimates.
So, which state will reach the finish line first?
(Hint: We’re pretty sure it’ll be Maryland.)
Why Maryland sports betting will launch first
As things currently stand, Maryland is in the lead to launch MD online sports betting before either of the other two states in contention.
Maryland already operates retail sports betting, while Ohio and Massachusetts do not. This means state regulators possess firsthand experience with the sportsbook application process. Thus, they should likely have a firm grasp of the necessary steps.
Additionally, regulators are finding new ways to expedite the application process, which closes Oct. 21. This past month, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission decided to approve applications on a rolling basis rather than in bulk. This means the commission can begin reviewing applications immediately after the submission deadline. Operators can then be awarded licenses upon approval rather than receiving confirmation on a predetermined date.
In theory, this move will help the SWARC approve applications faster. This could likely lead to an earlier launch. It could also help curb a possible bottleneck when applications flood in closer to the application deadline.
Maryland online sports betting could realistically launch as early as November, which would be well ahead of both Ohio and Massachusetts.
In a Tuesday VIXIO GamblingCompliance webinar, Maryland Lottery Director John Martin even went so far as to confirm:
“I am confident that there will be mobile wagering in the state of Maryland in 2022.”
Why Massachusetts won’t launch first
Massachusetts lawmakers went through far too much drama to legalize sports betting this past year. In a state with iconic MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA franchises, wagering could’ve been a profitable move long ago.
The amount of time it took lawmakers to legalize sports betting serves as a bad sign in this launch race. The state is currently caught up in a regulatory dance. Sports betting operators have each submitted a “notice of intent” to enter the Massachusetts market. However, these notices are not technically formal applications.
Before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission officially opens the application window, the MGC wants to establish a grasp on exactly how many operators might be interested. This regulatory caution will slow Massachusetts’ launch until the early part of 2023 at the soonest.
Why Ohio sports betting won’t debut first
The Buckeye State hasn’t been quite as lackluster as Massachusetts. Ohio announced sports betting would launch on Jan. 1, and it’s yet to walk that date back.
However, the Ohio Casino Control Commission has run into its own fair share of issues. In early September, the commission revealed that one-third of sports betting license applications exhibited problems. This could very well cause those applicants to miss the Jan. 1 launch date.
OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler told PlayMaryland the commission gave applicants clear instructions about how to properly fill out the applications. He said the OCCC does not have the resources to carry applicants across the finish line.
While there’s no reason to believe that Ohio will miss its stated launch date, it’s concerning that operators are already confused about what’s required of them.
The OCCC’s potential lack of resources could also pose a concern as the industry grows.
Until then, Ohio and Massachusetts continue to trail, while Maryland holds onto its strong lead in the race to launch online sports betting.