As Week 12 of the NFL arrives with some turkey and stuffing, the desire for Marylanders to place legal sports bets on the Baltimore Ravens is growing each week.
And if you’re part of the #RavensFlock like myself, proud to sit atop the AFC North (7-3), you’re more than ready to bet it all on this resilient team during an NFL playoff run.
But the question is: When? When exactly will Maryland regulators finally get the market off the ground?
The 2021 NFL season is hitting the homestretch. The Ravens, fresh off a 16-13 triumph over the Chicago Bears, look poised for the playoffs. However, will we finally be able to bet on them at Maryland sportsbooks once they’re there?
Interest in Ravens’ playoff run
It’s no doubt that the NFL is the most popular sports league in the country.
According to Gallup, football and the NFL remain US sports fans’ favorite sport to watch. In fact, it’s three times as popular as the second-place option, baseball/MLB. And it’s been that way for nearly four decades.
The American Gaming Association also notes that an estimated 42.5 million Americans planned to wager on the NFL during the current season. That’s a 36% increase compared to 2020, which means football is still growing in popularity among sports bettors.
With that kind of popularity, it’s imperative for Maryland to capitalize on it. As legislators and regulators work through the red tape, they’ve already missed the NFL regular season. Now, as the Ravens push for a playoff run, Maryland’s sports wagering market simply can’t afford to miss the NFL postseason.
Mo’ money, fewer problems?
Legal Sports Report tracks the legal US sports betting market. And according to the data, Maryland’s neighboring states with legal sports betting saw their best Q1 2021 results in January.
Why is January key? As mentioned above, the NFL is by far the most popular betting option with sports bettors at US sportsbooks. And with the NFL Playoffs kicking off in early January, the month is an especially busy one at sportsbooks.
But look what happens after January. As we’ve seen in states where sports betting is legal, the betting volume (handle), as well as sportsbooks’ revenue, begins to dip substantially once February arrives due to an overall weaker sports schedule.
|January '21 revenue||February '21 revenue||March '21 revenue|
Sure, sportsbooks get a boost in February with Super Bowl betting. And March Madness brings a flurry of wagering the following month. But it doesn’t compare to January and the popularity of the NFL postseason.
With this year’s NFL Playoffs likely to include a Baltimore playoff run, Maryland simply can’t afford to miss this golden opportunity to launch the market with a bang.
The Ravens’ season of miracles
Despite a lengthy injured reserve list, the 2021-22 Baltimore Ravens have proven they’re contenders for Super Bowl LVI and the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Sunday’s performance against the Chicago Bears, without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, was another reminder that Baltimore has the depth the team needs to overcome adversity.
In fact, as a Ravens fan, this has felt like a season of miracles:
- Week 2: Ravens come back from 11 points to beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35.
- Week 3: Ravens beat Detroit Lions, 19-17, with Justin Tucker’s 66-yard game-winning field goal.
- Week 5: Ravens erase a 16-point deficit to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-25, in an OT thriller.
- Week 8: Ravens rally from a 14-point deficit to beat the Minnesota Vikings, 34-31, in OT.
- Week 9: Ravens come from behind to beat the Chicago Bears, 16-13, with backup QB Tyler Huntley under center in first career start.
With these miraculous week-to-week results, sports bettors in Maryland want an outlet.
After all, this Baltimore Ravens team is a resilient one, and the unexpected always seems to happen. They have the type of “it” factor and could do some damage in the NFL playoffs.
We just want to place a legal wager in Maryland during their pending playoff run.
Playoff run: Ravens’ latest postseason odds
The Ravens are pretty big favorites to win their division.
And as for winning the AFC and the Super Bowl, here are those latest Ravens’ odds too:
- To win AFC North: -167 (BetRivers Sportsbook)
- Win AFC Championship: +550 (BetRivers)
- Win Super Bowl: +1200 (BetRivers)
At -167 odds to win the division, the Baltimore Ravens have an implied probability of 62.6%. They’re also +1200 to win the Super Bowl, an implied probability of 7.7%.
In comparison to other top contenders in the AFC, only the Kansas City Chiefs (+750) and Buffalo Bills (+850) have shorter odds of winning the Super Bowl than the Ravens.
The AFC East division-leading New England Patriots (+1300) and the AFC South division-leading Tennessee Titans (+1700) fall right behind the Ravens in terms of Super Bowl odds.
These futures odds suggest that Baltimore is likely to make it to the postseason. In fact, there’s a good chance the Ravens could go deep into the postseason, giving Baltimore backers multiple opportunities to wager on them throughout January.
It should all serve as an even greater motivator for regulators to quickly get retail sports betting live in MD.
A realistic start date for MD sports betting
Thanks to a 5-2 vote, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) recently awarded sports betting licenses to five of the six casinos in Maryland:
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (partnered with Caesars Sportsbook)
- Live! Casino & Hotel (FanDuel Sportsbook)
- MGM National Harbor (MGM Sportsbook Maryland)
- Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool Sportsbook)
- Ocean Downs (TwinSpires)
Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency officials said retail sportsbooks could ramp up within 45 days of license approval. So that means the first week of January is a realistic possibility.
The first round of the 2021-22 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card round, kicks off during the weekend of Jan. 15. If the playoffs started today, the Baltimore Ravens would be a No. 2 seed, and they would face the No. 7 seed Buffalo Bills in a wild card game.
If there’s a delay of even a few weeks to launch MD retail sports betting, sports bettors would miss out not only on that wild-card game but also the divisional round of the playoffs, which kicks off on Jan. 22. The conference championship games then kick off the following weekend to close out January.
Yeah, retail sports betting (aka in-person betting) isn’t perfect. We’d rather bet from our couch right on our phone or tablet. But full online, mobile sports betting could still be up to a year away here in Maryland.
So, if we’re going to be limited to in-person retail betting to start, we need to give sports bettors a good reason to actually make the trip to a Maryland casino to place a bet. And it doesn’t get much better than having the Ravens in the postseason and making a playoff run.
Maryland: Get the job done and give the #RavensFlock what we truly deserve: Legal sports betting before the NFL Playoffs.