Maryland is about a month away from a legal mobile sports wagering launch. As the launch nears, I receive more and more questions from Marylanders wondering how the rollout will look.
Want a better understanding of how the next 4-6 weeks will look for Maryland sports bettors? Here are the most frequently asked questions surrounding the state’s launch and answers to those common inquiries.
When will mobile wagering launch?
Perhaps the question most asked by Marylanders focuses on the launch date of mobile sportsbooks. Seth Elkin, the lottery’s assistant director of communications for public affairs, told Sports Handle via email that the lottery can’t “circle a date on the calendar” but an early December launch looks more likely than one in late November.
The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission will review mobile sportsbook license applications at its Nov. 21 meeting. The SWARC is expected to award licenses at that meeting. After that, the lottery will perform technical checks through controlled demonstrations. Once a sportsbook passes through that step with the lottery, it will be granted permission to launch.
“We’ll be aiming to complete controlled demonstrations as quickly as possible after SWARC makes its awards,” Elkin said.
Updated Maryland mobile sports betting launch timeline:
Today – Lottery deemed 10 mobile license applicants qualified
Nov. 21 – SWARC meets to award licenses to mobile applicants
Late Nov./early Dec. – After final checks from the lottery, mobile sportsbooks can launch
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) October 27, 2022
Why can’t mobile launch now?
The lottery deemed 10 mobile license applicants qualified last week, so why can’t state regulators give mobile sportsbooks the go-ahead now?
It’s understandable that some Marylanders are frustrated by the long, long wait for mobile sports betting. After all, Maryland voters approved sports betting via referendum in November 2020. It’ll be over two full years before Maryland sports wagering platforms launch.
The frustration shouldn’t necessarily be directed at the few weeks the SWARC and its law firm (Taft) need to review the materials of the qualified applicants.
They need 3 more weeks to meet ?
— Justin Cosgrove (@JustinCos419) October 27, 2022
“The period between [last week’s] Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission meeting and SWARC’s November meeting will provide SWARC the time necessary to review the applications that it has received,” George Butler, who works with the state’s Department of Legislative Services, told Sports Handle via email.
What does the review of the applications entail?
“To fulfill the intent of the law, SWARC is examining the ownership structures of those entities that are seeking to hold sports wagering licenses and evaluating their business plans,” Butler said. “SWARC is also evaluating each application to determine whether [awarding] a sports wagering license to the applicant is ‘in the public interest’ as required by the law.”
While it’s likely that well-known operators that are currently operating retail sportsbooks in the state will be issued mobile betting licenses, the SWARC can’t skirt its responsibility to thoroughly vet each applicant.
Why has the launch taken so long?
Perturbed Marylanders should direct any disappointment with the progress toward legislators, rather than the SWARC. Maryland’s sports betting legislation essentially created the SWARC for the entity to look specifically at diversity and inclusion in the state’s sports betting market.
As a result, the SWARC was required by law to conduct a disparity study looking into whether it could legally implement race- or gender-conscious measures when vetting sports betting applicants. The process of assigning the disparity study and completing it was not done efficiently, and it ultimately determined the SWARC couldn’t legally implement race- or gender-conscious measures.
The SWARC did, however, add another provision aimed at including a wide range of businesses in the industry.
“SWARC established a provision that requires any entity that holds a license must have at least 5% direct or indirect ownership by individuals with a personal net worth of less than $1.847 million,” Butler shared. “The satisfaction of that requirement by each applicant is just one of the areas that SWARC is currently evaluating.”
In the end, not much was done to guarantee diversity within the state’s sports betting market. That’s not to say there aren’t diverse sports betting businesses in Maryland — Long Shot’s and Riverboat on the Potomac are good examples — but Maryland legislation essentially forced the SWARC to move at a glacial pace in hopes of creating a diverse wagering industry.
Time will tell if Maryland creates a sports betting market more inclusive than others across the country. There’s a distinct possibility the state’s sports betting legislation delayed an influx of tax revenue without dramatically increasing diversity in the industry.
What mobile sportsbooks are coming to MD?
When mobile sportsbooks finally launch in Maryland, customers will have access to several major operators. Here’s a list of the 10 mobile operators currently working through the process of receiving licenses:
- Barstool Sportsbook
- Caesars Sportsbook
It’s possible a few of these entities will take longer to launch than others, but DraftKings and FanDuel are among the operators that have advertised an upcoming Maryland launch. That suggests they’ll be among the first to go live in the state.
Is there retail betting in Maryland?
Yes, there are currently eight operational retail sportsbooks in Maryland. Legal retail sportsbooks launched in Maryland in December 2021.
The eight sportsbooks are located at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Live! Casino in Hanover, Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin, Bingo World in Brooklyn Park, Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County, and Greenmount Station in Hampstead. Greenmount Station’s retail sportsbook launched at the end of last week.