With football season set to start in a few weeks, Marylanders will still have to drive to a brick-and-mortar location to place their Week 1 bets. In fact, that might be the case for all of their regular-season wagers.
Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Commission (SWARC) said Wednesday that “it’s possible” that online sports betting could launch by February’s Super Bowl. This likely puts to rest any hope there was of Marylanders placing mobile bets before 2022 ends.
Again, the SWARC’s hope is to have online sports-betting licenses awarded and mobile sportsbooks operational by February. However, the commission would not officially commit to the timeline. It said that the date is not guaranteed due to certain hurdles that must be cleared first.
What are the sports-betting hurdles in Maryland?
First, the actual applications, while they are available for operators to begin filling out, can’t be submitted just yet. They are on hold until the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) votes on them. That will happen next week at the earliest.
Then, SWARC has to wait on the release of the state-run disparity study that the commission has been waiting on since March. So, when will the study be released? SWARC Commissioner Tom Brandt says “soon.” The hope is to have it within the next week or two.
Once the application period officially opens, operators will have 45 days to submit. Then, applicants will have another 14 days to get Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) their required materials.
After that time, there will be an additional 45 days for SWARC and MLGCC to review everything. That said, there was some doubt expressed during Wednesday’s meeting that MLGCA would finish its process for every applicant within that window.
Everything depends on the applicant. If there are an above-average amount of prospective operators that would slow things down, there’s a chance additional time will be needed to review properly.
Breakdown of the process
- AELR votes on current applications (estimated to take 10 days) followed by a 30-day public comment period.
- Industry analysis finished and reviewed (estimated to take 7-14 days).
- Application window open (estimated 45 days).
- MLGCA application deadline (estimated 14 days later).
- Review of applications (estimated 45 days).
Expediency vs. equality
With football season on the horizon, there is a clamor for Maryland online sports betting and the promotional offers that comes with each launch. SWARC is aware of and feels the pressure to award licenses on a rolling basis instead of at one given time.
But if the commission goes that route, it may be forgetting why this process took so long in the first place.
Seasoned operators (i.e. DraftKings, FanDuel, BetRivers, MGM, Caesars, etc.) that have gone through these protocols before are in a prime position to be ready to launch as soon as they have their license. The smaller businesses, that may be jumping into sports betting for the first time, may not be prepared for the hurdles that come before a license is granted.
This could lead them to launch much later than the larger sportsbooks. The possibility of missing out on the Super Bowl target entirely would be in play.
Commanders awarded retail license
SWARC also took the time during Wednesday’s meeting to award retail sports wagering licenses to both Maryland Stadium Sub, LLC and Chesapeake Gaming LLC. Both were done via a unanimous vote.
Maryland Stadium Sub, LLC is the name under which the Washington Commanders applied for a retail sportsbook. It’s expected that one will appear at FedEx Field in the near future. Under which operator, however, is up for debate.
The Commanders already boast a partnership with FanDuel, one that was agreed upon in 2021 when Virginia legalized sports betting. This included signage at the stadium but no sportsbook since the address is technically in Maryland.
It would likely be a smooth transition to expand that partnership to include an in-person book. However, a recent report suggests that Fanatics Sportsbook may also be in the running.