Why Maryland Took So Long To Launch Online Sports Betting

Posted on November 18, 2022 - Last Updated on December 2, 2022

Two years after Maryland voters approved sports betting, players are finally able to place wagers online. Seven sportsbook apps went live on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 a.m., and more wait patiently on the sidelines for their turn to debut.

It was a frustratingly long process for eager Marylanders. So, what took so long?

Maryland finally debuts online sports betting on Nov. 23

After what felt like an incredibly slow rollout, online sportsbooks officially debuted the day before Thanksgiving this year.

Ten sportsbooks were approved by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) to offer online sports betting in Maryland. A handful of those brands even announced incredible pre-launch welcome offers. Seven of those went live at launch.

Until recently, Maryland regulators were hesitant to circle an exact date on the calendar. Now, eager bettors can celebrate the launch date of Nov. 23 as opposed to a launch later in December.

SWARC recently expedited the launch process by moving up its latest meeting to an earlier date. During that Nov. 16 meeting, the commission approved 10 mobile sportsbook licenses, paving the way for additional steps to begin.

Lottery put sportsbooks through test phase

After approval, the final testing phase began, controlled by the Maryland Lottery. This essentially featured technical checkups on all processes in place via controlled demonstrations to confirm each sportsbook’s working order. All seven sportsbook apps passed that technical demonstration test and were granted final permission to launch.

Assistant Communications Director Seth Elkin confirmed early on that the Maryland Lottery would work fast on testing.

“We’ll be aiming to complete controlled demonstrations as quickly as possible after SWARC makes its awards.”

Why did SWARC take so long?

Still, it seems strange that it took nearly three weeks for SWARC to meet and review the 10 initial applications. George Butler, who works in Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, explained the length of time it takes to review each applicant.

“To fulfill the intent of the law, SWARC is examining the ownership structures of those entities that are seeking to hold sports wagering licenses and evaluating their business plans. SWARC is also evaluating each application to determine whether [awarding] a sports wagering license to the applicant is ‘in the public interest’ as required by law.”

Prior to application evaluations, a number of other requirements also contributed to the launch delay. Namely, a state-mandated disparity study proved to be a primary hurdle in the process.

A public comment period this past October revealed the extent of the Maryland public’s frustration with the delay, with one Marylander going so far as to suggest Maryland has been “delaying democracy” with the slow rollout.

Maryland seemed to follow recent trends

In comparison to previous rollouts of online sports betting, Maryland took an incredibly long amount of time. However, the state seems to be following a more recent trend.

Early states that legalized online sportsbooks launched online markets at a rapid pace. For example:

  • New Jersey took its very first bet in August of 2018, just two months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed legalized sports betting into law.
  • Indiana took its first bet in August of 2019, which was just three months after officially legalizing mobile sports wagering.
  • Iowa legalized online wagering in May of 2019 and opened up its mobile sportsbooks in August of 2019, just three months later.
  • Michigan legalized in December of 2019 and took its first bets three months later.

Two and a half months was the average wait time prior to the first quarter of 2020. But things have changed dramatically since then. For example:

  • Ohio started accepting applications in June and is set to launch fully in January, about six months later.
  • Massachusetts accepted formal notices of intent through August of 2022. They still have not officially accepted applications for mobile sportsbook licenses and might not launch until early 2023.
  • Maine legalized sports betting in May of this year. It appears it could take up to, or even more than, two years before online wagering and mobile sportsbooks launch.
  • Delaware launched retail betting in 2018. However, four years later, online sportsbooks remain unavailable.

When comparing Maryland to other states on the path to online sports betting, The Old Line State ultimately celebrated a launch that was relatively on track.

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

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