In its latest meeting on Thursday, the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission preached patience regarding the mobile sports betting legalization process.
“I understand that many are frustrated that the process relating to the issuance of Maryland’s mobile sports wagering licenses has been time-consuming,” SWARC chairman Thomas Brandt said to start the meeting.
“I also want everyone to know that SWARC and its support team have been operating as diligently and deliberately as we can under the Maryland sports wagering law that we’re tasked to administer.”
Brandt’s comments come a day after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan publicly pushed the commission to “act immediately” concerning getting Maryland online sports betting off the ground in the Old Line State.
“Instead of decisive action to implement the voters’ decision, you have allowed the process to stagnate and become mired in overly bureaucratic procedures that have needlessly delayed the state’s ability to maximize the revenue potential of this emerging industry,” Hogan wrote.
Hogan urged SWARC to get things going by the start of the NFL regular season. Brandt preached patience throughout this “healthy process,” and there remains no firm or concrete timeline following Thursday’s meeting.
“Maryland’s law is particularly complex because, unlike any other jurisdiction, there’s a significant deliberate effort to enable small businesses, minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses to have equity positions to participate in the growth of the new sports wagering industry,” Brandt said.
How Maryland got here
After Hogan signed HB940 into law in May of last year, it didn’t take long for retail sports betting. By the end of 2021, five of the state’s six casinos boasted physical sportsbooks.
- Live! Casino & Hotel
- MGM National Harbor
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
- Hollywood Casino Perryville
- Ocean Downs Casino
Since, the state has brought in over $155.6 million in collective handle, generating nearly $18 million in taxable revenue. But with 80-90% of wagers expected to be placed online, the question has always been when will the Old Line State launch mobile sports betting?
The delay for online sports wagering has largely been because SWARC is awaiting the completion of a state-run disparity survey. This study is meant to show potential hurdles for minority- or women-owned businesses from getting into sports betting.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the law firm assisting SWARC in the process, had no public update on the survey during Thursday’s meeting. However, it did mention that things were “moving forward.”
What’s next in the mobile sports betting process?
While the timeline is still unclear, work is still being done to further the mission of a potential launch.
Jim Nielsen of Maryland Lottery and Gaming (MLGCC) said Thursday that the draft of the regulations is “about 95% done.”
The hope is to get that to SWARC by early next week after a final review.
“They are a little confusing, but that’s the way they have to be submitted,” Nielsen warned in his comments.
The intent, Nielsen said, is to submit these as emergency regulations to try and accelerate the process. There will be a special meeting of the SWARC on Wednesday, June 29, to discuss the draft.
Brandt said that he expects SWARC applications for online and additional Class B licenses to be published this summer. SWARC would then begin accepting applications “shortly thereafter.”
The SWARC will next meet during its regularly scheduled gathering on July 20.
An application clarification
Taft took the time in Thursday’s meeting to clarify the application process, for both mobile and Class B licenses. Before a license can be awarded to an interested party, it must first apply and be approved through the SWARC and the MLGCC.
The information taken from the SWARC application will be used to determine if one should be granted a license. The MLGCC component, however, dives into the background of an applicant, allowing for proper vetting. Both are required before SWARC can award any licenses.
As mentioned above, the SWARC application should be published at some point this summer but is not yet complete. The background application, however, is already available on the MLGCC’s website for those interested.
Starting Friday, the MLGCC will also open up its eLicensing platform to all businesses and individuals interested in a Class B or mobile license. Here, applicants can submit information and the necessary documents to get the process underway.
“We know that everyone is eager to get started, and opening eLicensing is a proactive way for us to facilitate progress,” MLGCC director John Martin said. “As we await the SWARC application, we’ll be able to spend time assisting small businesses that aren’t familiar with the level of investigation that exists in sports wagering.”
Any given investigation could take multiple months, so getting started on the MLGCC’s end could help push the process along.
SWARC is authorized to award up to 30 Class B facility licenses and up to 60 mobile licenses.