First Maryland Sports Betting License Applications Get Preliminary Approval

Posted on October 6, 2021

Sports betting license applications attached to three of the six Maryland casinos are through their first round of regulatory scrutiny. It’s good news for the casino operators hoping to offer sports wagering before the next round of NFL playoffs.

However, the announcement from the MD Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) also sheds light on the process and points toward a possible staggered launch in the Old Line State. The latter might displease some stakeholders.

MLGCC sends on three sports betting license applications

On Wednesday, the MLGCC announced it gave its approval to license applications from:

With that, the newly created Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) will now have its say on these matters. There is no timeline for when that body could render decisions.

The SWARC may not rule on all three simultaneously, either. However, it does bode well for each applicant that the MLGCC  approved the licenses.

In August, the SWARC voted to adopt the same standards of consideration that the MLGCC uses. Using that criteria, the SWARC could vote as soon as Oct. 14 to approve these licenses. That’s when the commission meets next.

Approval in that meeting would essentially open the door for all/any of the three applicants to get their systems ready for inspection. Again, there’s no firm timeline for that process.

There are no official updates at this time on the status of other license applications, including the state’s other three casinos. That’s part of what might ruffle some feathers in MD.

Some hoping for a uniform launch date

Among the public comments at a set of meetings last month was a call for regulators to set one launch date on which all approved licensees could start accepting wagers. The most prominent of those voices was Paul Hannon, senior VP of PointsBet USA.

If these license applications get approved before others, that suggests they might get to start earlier than the competition. The gap between approvals might not be that long, however. Also, regulators could still choose to delay go-live authorization dates, too.

While there is a benefit to the public of having a lot of options from the get-go, that needs to be balanced with the license holders’ interests. Regulators could choose to reward the work that these parties have done to get into compliance with standards quickly.

All three of these casinos have announced at least part of their plans for their retail sportsbooks. Additionally, they have turnkey solutions for online wagering due to their existing partnerships.

While that might not mean Marylanders will get a crack at BetMGM Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook first, this news does give some insight as to the regulatory path. It also raises an important question, though.

Concurrent action makes votes mostly a formality?

The rules in MD made it clear that license applications for sports betting in MD need approval from both bodies. It seems that the MLGCC and SWARC do their due diligence on the applications concurrently.

It’s uncertain whether the two bodies look at applications through different lenses with complementing emphasis or if both bodies take a similar overall approach. It’s clear that they are both working from the same criteria for consideration, though.

The question is whether a vote to approve in the MLGCC then essentially assures the same from the SWARC or whether the two groups could reach different ultimate conclusions. Given that they seem to be taking the same “road,” it’s hard to see that path going to a different place.

If that’s the case, then these three MD casinos can consider the SWARC vote mostly procedural. Marylanders also now have some idea of where they might first be able to put down legal bets.

Photo by Dreamstime / Artur Szczybylo
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