Count Gov. Larry Hogan among the Marylanders frustrated by the lack of legal mobile sports betting platforms available in the state. Hogan, concerned by the pace of progress from the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, sent a letter to the commission ahead of its June meeting scheduled Thursday.
“I write to you today to urge the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission to act immediately so that mobile sports wagering can begin in the State of Maryland before the start of the National Football League (NFL) regular season on September 8, 2022,” Hogan said in the letter, which was sent Tuesday. “To make that target date achievable, it is imperative that you immediately accelerate and intensify your efforts.”
Maryland voters approved sports betting in November of 2020, and Hogan officially legalized it by signing legislation in May 2021. While five casinos launched retail sports betting options in Maryland last December, the SWARC has worked slowly toward awarding mobile wagering licenses.
Look at Virginia!! Where is Maryland? Oh still waiting for the SWARC committee to figure it out…anyone know who is even on the SWARC committee? https://t.co/K2Lo5PB2v2
— Pete Medhurst (@PeteMedhurst) June 9, 2022
The group has spent several meetings waiting for the results of a disparity study. The SWARC, which is required under the law to promote diversity within the sports wagering industry, hasn’t offered a public update on when the study might be completed. The study will help determine what measures, if any, can be legally implemented to help businesses owned by women and minorities.
“I realize that this ongoing delay is the byproduct of an overly complex piece of legislation that was skewed to appease special interest groups and organizations,” Hogan said. “The rest of the holdup lies with bureaucratic hurdles and legal obstacles placed by the Office of the Attorney General.”
The letter pointed to SWARC’s failure to provide a clear timeline for Marylanders who want to place mobile bets.
“While much work is ostensibly ‘in progress,’ [the] SWARC has still not defined a clear pathway or timeline for mobile sports wagering implementation — it is simply inexcusable for that to be the case more than a year after the bill was signed into law,” Hogan said.
Hogan urged the SWARC to prioritize awarding mobile licenses to the entities that have already been granted retail sports wagering licenses, which includes major operators Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel. Those operators could likely prepare quickly for a mobile launch once given the go-ahead by state regulators.
Hogan believes that if the SWARC applies the same approach to those mobile operators as it did when awarding retail licenses at the end of 2021, several of them could be operational by the start of the NFL season. The NFL typically draws significant interest from bettors, which leads to more wagering and higher potential tax revenue that the state will otherwise miss out on.
The governor also made the point that ushering along several of the big-name operators currently operating in the retail market would allow the SWARC and lottery to spend more time working with minority and women-owned businesses to get their operations up and running. Essentially, Hogan argues that the delay — which seems largely designed to make sure the SWARC is prepared to help minority and women-owned businesses find success in the industry — is actually hurting that goal.
Additionally, Hogan called for the SWARC to give a “firm and transparent timeline for mobile sports wagering,” and he wants the timeline shared at this week’s meeting.
All eyes on Thursday’s meeting
The SWARC meets Thursday morning, and the meeting just received added pressure. Some Marylanders complain that the monthly SWARC meetings lead to little action, but a few social media gripes hardly compare to an official letter sent by the governor.
They literally over-legislated themselves into a corner. Thanks for the update. Looking forward to another SWARC meeting in which nothing happens.
— hamilcar (@Hamilcar28) June 15, 2022
With the lottery “ready to go,” it’s up to the SWARC to move at a faster pace if it wants to appease Hogan’s wishes.
“Maryland Lottery and Gaming has gone above and beyond to make this launch happen,” Hogan said. “I call on you to act with the same level of urgency and clear the way for mobile sports wagering. I, along with many other Marylanders, will be watching your next meeting with great interest.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that a disparity study is being completed by the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General acts as counsel to the commission, but the SWARC is in charge of completing the study.