Rocky Gap & Ocean Downs Still Without Online Sportsbooks

Posted on January 24, 2023

Maryland online sports betting has been live for two months, and things are off to a roaring start for its first seven online sportsbooks. Four of those sportsbooks have partnerships with retail casinos in Maryland, while the remaining three gained access through partnerships with other state-approved venues.

The final two in-state casinos, Ocean Downs Casino and Rocky Gap Casino Resort, remain on the sidelines as hundreds of millions of dollars are wagered each month in Maryland.

Ocean Downs & Rocky Gap without online sportsbook partnerships

Online sports betting in Maryland began on Nov. 23. There are still just seven online sportsbooks, but four are expected to be added soon.

Ocean Downs Casino features an onsite retail sportsbook thanks to its partnership with TwinSpires. However, the horse race betting authority closed online sportsbook operations in six states in 2022, opting to focus on expanding its track presence instead.

This effectively leaves Ocean Downs without a true sports betting partner. Meanwhile, Maryland’s smallest casino, Rocky Gap Casino, has never shown a desire to participate in sports betting.

So, what are these two casinos missing by failing to jump into Maryland’s online sports betting boom from the beginning?

Operators look elsewhere for partnerships

Since going live, Maryland’s online sportsbooks have handled more than $660 million in wagers. 

Meanwhile, the next batch of mobile operators to enter the market continues to watch, awaiting their green lights to carve out a piece of the overall pie. These operators, which include BetFred, BetParx and Fanatics, have the chance to do so through partners like off-track betting sites Long Shot’s and Greenmount Station and sports venues like the Washington Commanders’ FedEx Field.

Maryland state law allows 60 mobile sportsbook licenses, with abundant partnership opportunities outside Rocky Gap and Ocean Downs. If either casino prefers not to add online sports betting, they don’t have to. But the longer the two venues watch the market mature, the more opportunities they miss on what could have been a slam dunk for growing their brands and adding revenue to their bottom lines.

As more sportsbooks open their virtual doors to business within The Old Line State, Ocean Downs and Rocky Gap could render themselves obsolete, despite the hindsight chance to lock down early access to mobile sports betting.

Ocean Downs had one of the first retail sportsbooks in the state

Retail sports betting began nearly a year before online wagering, starting in December 2021. The TwinSpires Sportsbook was the fourth to open in the state, and five of six casinos opened their retail sportsbooks within a week of one another.

These five books enjoyed an eight-month head start before the PointsBet Sportsbook opened in August at Riverboat on the Potomac

In September, the BetRivers Sportsbook followed at Bingo World Baltimore. These two, along with DraftKings Sportsbook (through the Maryland State Fairgrounds), were among the seven initial mobile sportsbooks to launch in November. DraftKings was the only operator without an in-state retail sportsbook partner.

Ocean Downs & Rocky Gap missing an opportunity

Today, 10 retail sportsbooks operate, with three more opening since October. These three are licensed for online sportsbooks, too, and eagerly await approval to go live:

Further prospective operators have no obligation to work with Ocean Downs and Rocky Gap to obtain sportsbook licenses, with plenty of unaffiliated and potentially eligible businesses remaining throughout the state. A few prominent players like Bally Bet and WynnBET are also licensed, though they still have no partnerships in Maryland. Ocean Downs seems unlikely to land either of these names in a short timeframe before they go live.

However, one last scenario remains: As TwinSpires trends toward exiting sports betting altogether to grow its horse racing presence, another party could buy out its naming rights to the retail sportsbook. That party could subsequently launch a mobile sportsbook in partnership with Ocean Downs.

Regardless, Ocean Downs must do something to maintain its presence as Maryland’s sports betting market evolves around it.

Could new Rocky Gap ownership change sports betting outlook?

To date, Rocky Gap has expressed zero interest in sports betting — neither retail nor online. That could change soon.

Colorado’s Century Casinos purchased Rocky Gap last August, with the sale expected to close later this year. Once it becomes official, new operators could have a fresh perspective on Maryland’s young and relatively open sports betting market.

In Colorado, Century has sports betting partnerships with Circa, Tipico and bet365, all legitimate contenders to come to Maryland. 

However, ​​Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission has not announced the other initial applicants awaiting licensure. The picture should become clearer this spring.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of legal, safe, and responsible gambling. He feels fortunate to be able to contribute to the growing betting industry through his writing, primarily using his background in poker, sports, and psychology to do so.

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