Maryland Mobile Sports Betting Is Months Away | news

Licensing Commission wades through legal requirements

Almost six months after opening 20 sportsbook kiosks at Ocean Downs Casino, mobile betting is still not available in Maryland.

And despite intense pressure from Gov. Larry Hogan to get it up and running in time for the start of the NFL season, the board members tasked with issuing the licenses are still several weeks away from any solid action.

On June 15, Hogan released a strongly worded letter to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), urging members to “immediately accelerate and intensify” their efforts to make mobile sports betting licenses available to business owners in Maryland.

“Marylanders are awaiting mobile sports betting in frustration as they have watched it become available in states across the country, including our neighboring jurisdictions of … Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, DC,” the letter said.

He asked the members of the commission to establish a firm and transparent timetable for mobile betting at their next meeting on June 16; Draft releases of the mobile sports betting application and accompanying regulations; apply the same approach to mobile licenses as the commission used to speed up casino licenses last year; and continuously approve mobile licenses.

In response, SWARC chairman Tom Brandt said during the June 16 commission meeting that the governor’s demands are not as easy to meet as it seems.

“Maryland law is particularly complex,” he explained. “Unlike other jurisdictions, there is significant conscious effort to allow small businesses, minority-owned businesses and women to have equity and participate in the new sports betting industry.”

He said the legislation, which lawmakers approved during the 2021 session, included requirements such as evaluating a study of the sports betting industry and market, raising interest in implementing policies to support women and minorities, evaluating racially neutral programs or identify other methods to address the needs of minority, women and minority-owned businesses and women who wish to participate in the industry; and issuing regulations to implement measures where permitted by law.

Brandt said SWARC members have been working through the legal requirements and are awaiting drafts of the interim rules for applications, which will be ready for consideration early this week. From there, he said commissioners should take action at a special meeting in the next few weeks.

“Based on what we know today, my assumption is that the SWARC mobile sports betting applications and additional Class B licenses will be released this summer and that SWARC will start the applications shortly thereafter,” he said.

Hogan cited the legal obstacles in his letter, calling the delay in rolling out mobile sports betting “the by-product of overly complex legislation that has been distorted to appease interest groups and organizations.”

“The rest of the heist lies in bureaucratic hurdles and legal roadblocks set up by the attorney general’s office,” the letter continued. “While much work is reportedly ‘in progress’, SWARC still has not defined a clear path or timeline for implementing mobile sports betting – it is simply inexcusable that this is the case more than a year after the bill was signed into law.”

Maryland voters approved both physical and online sports betting 2-1 in November 2020, and lawmakers worked out the details during the following legislative session. Months later, in early December, casinos across the state began rolling out physical sportsbook kiosks and sportsbooks after a lengthy license review and approval process with SWARC and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

Today, five state institutions offer sports betting. Ocean Downs was the fourth casino to add 20 remodeled kiosks to its gaming offering from December 17th. Three more — Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Live! Casino in Hanover and MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill – introduced sports betting the week before. Hollywood Casino in Perryville, the fifth casino with an approved license, opened on December 23rd.

Passed legislation allows 60 online operators and 30 retail sportsbooks – including casinos, professional sports stadiums, small businesses and others – to acquire sportsbook licenses.

Ocean Downs has been granted an A-2 Sportsbook license which allows wagering on site in the casino building. It included a $1 million filing fee and a $3 million bond. Casino officials have said they also plan to purchase an online license if permitted, which requires a separate application costing $500,000.

This story will appear in the print edition of OC Today on June 24, 2022.

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