Lawmakers Want To Social Distance Maryland Sportsbooks

Posted on January 27, 2022 - Last Updated on March 4, 2022

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission issued five Class A sports betting licenses to MD casinos last November. However, a pair of senators filed legislation last week that would keep new Maryland sportsbooks from operating too close to the already established facilities.

Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick, and Sen. Michael Hough, R-Carroll, filed SB 297 on Jan. 19. The proposal would add three major restrictions to where sportsbooks could be built.

Firstly, the bill would keep the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission from issuing a license to any venue within a 15-mile radius of a Class A sportsbook in Allegany County, Cecil County or Worcester County. Secondly, it would prohibit the SWARC from awarding a license within 10 miles of a Class B facility in Calvert, Carrol, Frederick and Washington County.

Finally, it would prohibit any sportsbook from operating within 1.5 miles of another licensee, regardless of county or class.

Difference between Maryland sports betting licenses

Essentially, the only difference between Class A and Class B sports betting licenses is the size of the business. The bigger the business, the higher tier of licensing.

License Type Requirements Application Fee
Class A-1Casinos with more than 1,000 slot machines or a professional sports stadium$2 Million
Class A-2Casinos with fewer than 1,000 slot machines$1 Million
Class B-1More than 25 employees or $3 million in gross sales$250,000
Class B-2 Fewer than 25 employees or $3 million in gross sales$50,000

Only the state’s six casinos and three professional sports stadiums are eligible for Class A-1 and A-2 licenses. Only five of the nine eligible facilities applied for and received a license last year.

These Maryland casinos all have sportsbooks open for business:

Live!, Horseshoe and MGM qualified for an A-1 license. On the other hand, Ocean Downs and Hollywood Casino received an A-2 grade.

The three Maryland-based professional sports teams aren’t in season yet, so the stadiums have yet to open a sportsbook. However, when the Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Football Team start the 2022 seasons, those books will be A-1 grade, as well.

Class B licenses are for bars, restaurants and other small businesses in the state. These licensees would be more likely to offer self-serve betting kiosks instead of a full-blown sportsbook. Regulators haven’t issued a single Class B license yet.

Keeping MD sportsbooks from cannibalizing each other

The bill is designed to protect Maryland sportsbooks from oversaturation in areas where population density is sparse.

Washington, Carrol, Frederick and Calvert County have populations ranging from 92,000 to 259,000. Allegany, Worcester and Cecil County range from 52,000 to 102,000.

By contrast, Baltimore County is home to more than 827,000 people, and Prince George’s County has more than 909,000. There are no restrictions on sportsbooks specifically in the more densely populated areas.

There are no Class A sportsbooks in Washington, Carrol, Frederick or Calvert County. Therefore, lawmakers are trying to protect Class B venues.

However, there are casinos in Allegany, Worcester and Cecil County. Rocky Gap Casino is in Allegany County, Ocean Downs Casino makes Worcester County home, and Hollywood Casino Perryville resides in Cecil County. Consequently, the senators tried to protect Class A facilities.

Rocky Gap Casino is the only casino in the state without a sportsbook. That could change in the future, but officials have said they have no immediate plans.

The bill’s timeline

The Senate referred the bill to the Budget and Taxation Committee following the bill’s filing and first reading last week.

On Monday, the committee scheduled the first hearing for Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.

There is a companion bill in the House, HB 339, which is on a nearly identical schedule. The new requirements would be implemented on June 1 if either piece of legislation becomes law.

Photo by Shutterstock / DisobeyArt
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Steve Schult

Steve Schult has covered the gambling world for the last decade. With stints as a staff writer for the World Series of Poker and Bluff Magazine, as well as the online content manager for Card Player Media, the New York native covered high-stakes poker tournaments and the overall casino industry. He’ll shift most of his focus to the Virginia, Maryland and Florida markets as a managing editor for Catena Media.

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