Two days after receiving a critique-filled letter from Gov. Larry Hogan, the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission took on a different tone than usual at its monthly meeting. The members of the commission spoke Thursday with increased urgency about a timeline for a mobile sports betting launch in the state, and SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt began the meeting by directly addressing Hogan’s letter.
“I understand that many are frustrated that the process relating to the issuance of Maryland mobile sports wagering licenses has been time-consuming,” Brandt said. “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.”
In Brandt’s defense, Maryland’s sports wagering legislation does lend itself to a slow push toward a mobile sports betting launch. By law, the SWARC is required to complete a disparity analysis, and that study is still being completed.
“These steps are necessary for SWARC to set forth a sports wagering application evaluation process that is legally sound, and to the maximum extent permissible by law allows SWARC to seek to achieve racial, ethnic, and gender diversity when awarding the sports wagering licenses,” Brandt said.
Some progress made
While the SWARC continues waiting for the disparity analysis results, the group did set another June meeting. Typically, the commission only meets once a month.
The additional meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for June 29, is to discuss drafts of preliminary regulations and applications. Taft law firm, which is working with SWARC, plans to share initial drafts for mobile wagering applications with the commission early next week. The commissioners will have about a week to review those materials before discussing them at the June 29 meeting.
Ideally, SWARC wants to finalize application materials as soon as possible to begin allowing sports wagering operators to apply for mobile licenses. Taft will update those materials as needed upon receiving the disparity analysis results.
Jim Nielsen, the deputy director and chief operating officer at the Maryland Lottery, said at Thursday’s meeting that drafted regulations relating to mobile sports wagering are “about 95% done.” Nielsen hopes the regulations, once completed, can be released as emergency regulations to help speed the process of launching mobile wagering in the state.
Maryland's online sports betting launch took some tangiable steps forward during today's regulator meeting but there remains no firm launch timeline and the go-live date is still months away
— Ryan Butler (@ButlerBets) June 16, 2022
Additionally, the Maryland Lottery plans to launch an “eLicensing platform” to the public Friday. This platform will allow businesses and individuals wanting to apply for a Class B sports wagering facility license or a mobile betting license to begin working through the process. The platform will help begin background investigations, allowing businesses and individuals to gather and submit documents related to those thorough investigations.
“Some investigations could take several months, so now is a great opportunity for all potential applicants to get the ball rolling,” Maryland Lottery Director John Martin said in a statement.
Lottery staff will help guide applicants through the complicated application process, if needed.
“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,” Martin said. “Our staff is ready to work with them and help them to understand what’s required.”
Mobile launch timeline unknown
Gov. Hogan’s letter called for the SWARC to provide a “firm and transparent timeline for mobile sports wagering” at this week’s meeting, but the commission didn’t offer a potential date.
Today I called on the legislature’s Sports Wagering and Application Review Commission to take immediate actions to launch mobile sports betting in Maryland for the NFL season.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) June 15, 2022
“Based on what we know today, I expect the SWARC applications for mobile sports wagering and additional Class B licenses to be published this summer, and SWARC to begin accepting applications shortly thereafter,” Brandt said.
While vague, that certainly leaves potential for a mobile sports wagering launch either before or during the 2022 NFL season. In his letter, Hogan requested a mobile launch prior to the start of the NFL season.
Brandt said Thursday the SWARC will know more about a potential timeline as more tasks are completed.