5 Of 6 Maryland Casinos Now Have Prelim Approval For Retail Sports Betting

Posted on October 22, 2021

On paper, five Maryland casinos are now “halfway” to retail sports betting licenses. Earlier this week, one regulatory body gave its consent to licenses for Hollywood Casino Perryville and Ocean Downs, adding to the same for three other MD casinos.

However, the “final boss” for all of those applicants’ hopes remains dormant not only on that issue but all matters when it comes to Maryland sports betting.

For that reason, these approvals remain preliminary at best.

Two more retail sports betting licenses proceed to next step

The MD Lottery & Gaming Control Commission authorized Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs. That means only Rocky Gap Casino Resort among MD casinos remains without any level of approval for in-person wagering on sports.

The Commission approved licenses on its end for Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Live! Casino & Hotel, and MGM National Harbor a little earlier this month. All that approval really seems to do is move licenses along to the body that truly has the final say, though.

That is the MD Sports Wagering Application Review Commission. Earlier this year, the SWARC said it would be using the same criteria as the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission to evaluate license applications. In that context, final approval for these casinos seemed like a ball set on a tee.

What’s actually happened is the SWARC has not only failed to take any swings at that ball, but the regulators on that body haven’t even stepped up to the plate. It’s unclear exactly why they’re in the dugout. Pressure is building on them to step up, though.

Governor reasserts position on delays

On Thursday, MD Gov. Larry Hogan minced no words when it came to his assessment of the situation.

As he wrote:

“No one is pushing harder than I am to get sports betting up and running here in the State of Maryland.

“Our administration has now cleared five licenses for sports betting, implementing the referendum approved by voters and the law passed by the General Assembly.

“With Marylanders looking forward to betting on the NFL and March Madness, we now expect the legislature’s Sports Wagering Applicant Review Commission to swiftly approve these licenses.”

In his previous statement after the SWARC canceled its scheduled Oct. 14 meeting, Hogan included an email address for the SWARC. Earlier estimates had retail wagering opening up for Marylanders sometime this fall, with online options launching early in 2022.

That is now in jeopardy, and MD Lottery & Gaming Association Director John Martin said it could be up to another year before MD residents can legally bet online without leaving the state. As of Friday morning, the SWARC had not posted a new date for its next meeting.

Until the SWARC rules on license applications, casino operators’ hands are tied. That seems to be the remaining obstacle, as the operators themselves could be ready to roll in short order.

Hurry up and wait at MD casinos

Multiple MD casinos have already publicly shared at least part of their plans for retail sports wagering. For example, Live! Casino will integrate its betting windows into its existing Sports & Social area.

All five of these casino operators have experience running brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in other jurisdictions. Caesars Sportsbook will be coming to MD via Horseshoe Baltimore. MGM National Harbor will join the contingent of properties boasting a BetMGM Sportsbook.

That’s part of why the MLGCC approved licenses for these properties, expecting the SWARC to do the same.

Although there’s currently no timetable for when that might happen, the licenses have now progressed to that point for almost all of the state’s casinos.

Photo by AP / Rob Carr
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