Maryland Public Voices Frustration Over Online Sports Betting Delay

Written By David Danzis on October 18, 2022 - Last Updated on October 19, 2022
Public critical of mobile sports betting delay in Maryland

The slow-moving launch of Maryland online sports betting is causing some frustration among gamblers and operators.

Recently published comments directed to Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission suggest The Old Line State public thinks regulators are “delaying democracy”.

Public frustrated over sports betting launch delay

Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation in May 2021 approving in-person and online sports betting in Maryland. Land-based sportsbooks began taking legal wagers in December. Maryland online sports betting, however, has yet to see the light of day.

Emails to the SWARC included outright gambling opposition, detailed process recommendations and general questions. The submissions between Aug. 28 and Sept. 26 ranged from slightly humorous to somewhat aggressive.

Most of the comments relayed varying degrees of irritation at the speed (or lack thereof) of approving mobile sports betting licenses.

A Bel Air man went so far as to suggest that SWARC was subverting the people’s will by not already having online sports betting up and running.

“Why has SWARC not moved at a faster pace? MD voters approved mobile betting in November of 2020. Who gives you the right to delay democracy?”

Maryland losing out on money because of delay

Maryland’s retail-only sports betting industry has generated $3.7 million in taxes. Meanwhile, PlayMaryland’s online sports betting forecast for 2023 alone expects taxes to net nearly $75 million.

One commenter said the commission’s delay is hurting the state.

“I think the faster that Maryland gets mobile sports betting up and running the more money they will have for infrastructure and schools in the Maryland area.”

The commenter went on to say that they don’t “like going to the casino to place a bet” because of the chance they could get robbed.

“If mobile sports betting was legal in Maryland, I wouldn’t have to leave my house to make sports bets.”

Sports betting application process causes delay

Maryland’s unique applicant requirements are part of the reason why SWARC is taking so long to approve licenses. Potential licensees must explain how the company would improve or maintain diversity within 30 days of approval.

One commenter in late September questioned whether the commission was being overcautious.

“What in God’s name is taking so long? I get that you’re trying to help out the lil (sic) guy but this is a stupid battle. The major companies in mobile betting are the trusted ones, Noone (sic) will use an unknown book to wager because there’s no credibility. So give the licenses out already and stop wasting time and money.”

Lawyer questions owner requirement

Another SWARC provision recommends that at least one owner from an applicant company have a net worth of less than $1.847 million. This caught the attention of some major online sportsbook operators, who argue it adds no benefit to the people of Maryland.

Robert Moncrief Jr., legal counsel for bet365, said the provision will limit how much tax money the state will take in.

“SWARC risks severely restricting who may participate in the market without having a corresponding benefit to Maryland and its citizens. Any limitations on what operators can participate in the industry that aren’t driven by suitability or experience considerations, run the risk of adversely impacting the tax revenue generated by the state, as well as limiting customer choice in what would otherwise be a robust and competitive industry.”

MD public demands debate

FanDuel, the largest online sportsbook operator in the U.S., urged SWARC to reconsider a decision to grant approval on a rolling basis. Company executive Cory Fox said it’s a question of fairness:

“Use of a universal start date ensures fairness for all operators to compete on the quality of their product offering and improves the customer experience by allowing them access to try out all of the products available at the same time.”

Maryland gambling giants weigh in

Three Maryland casinos – Horseshoe Baltimore, Live! Casino and Hotel and MGM National Harbor – issued a joint statement expressing their desire for Class A applicants to be approved. They said they passed the “rigorous scrutiny” of the state Lottery and Gaming Control Commission and satisfied licensing conditions outlined in the law.

“Yet, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) has delayed approval of these licenses for several weeks with no clear explanation for the delay. … We ask SWARC to give speedy consideration to the applicants who have met the requirements of this statute, and award ‘Class A licenses’ to those applicants found suitable by the MLGCA.”

Online sports betting launch date remains unknown

State officials have not set a launch date for mobile sports betting. Recent comments from the state lottery director suggest a launch before the end of 2022.

The next meeting of the SWARC is on Oct. 19.

All the public comments can be viewed here.

Photo by Shutterstock
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a lead writer and analyst for Catena Media's network of Play sites, appearing on PlayNJ, PlayCA, PlayOhio and PlayMaryland. He is a New Jersey native and an honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. After years of reporting on Atlantic City casinos, NJ online gambling and sports betting, his focus is now on emerging gaming markets. David lives in Mays Landing, NJ with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, golf course, or the slopes, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers, and Knicks.

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