A 30-day public comment period on sports betting regulations in Maryland concluded at the end of September, a step toward a mobile sports betting launch in the state. With written public comments received — and a few oral comments received earlier this month — the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission will review the comments and may implement changes to the regulations depending on the merit of the comments.
Emergency regulations created by the SWARC were approved on Sept. 2. Any additional changes implemented by the SWARC after the public comment period will be published in the Maryland Register, likely on Oct. 21, and they would become effective 10 days after that.
Notable public comments
The public comments varied, with some legitimate, thoughtful remarks on SWARC regulations.
Other comments weren’t nearly as valuable. A few business owners reached out to the SWARC asking for help applying for a license, perhaps not understanding the purpose of the public comments. Others decided to chastise the SWARC for Maryland’s current lack of legal mobile sportsbooks.
“What in God’s name is taking so long?” one person wrote.
“Why has the SWARC not moved at a faster pace?” another commenter said. “MD voters approved mobile betting in November of 2020. What gives you the right to delay democracy?”
We're getting ready to bring mobile sports betting to the great state of Maryland very soon! 💰
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— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) October 10, 2022
On the insightful comment front, there were complaints about specific language in the SWARC’s emergency regulations. A couple of critiques focused on language that requires applicants to have either direct or indirect ownership of 5% or more from someone with a Personal Net Worth (PNW) of less than $1.847 million. Even a sportsbook operator, bet365, reached out to the SWARC to share comments against that requirement.
“Any limitations on what operators can participate in the industry that aren’t driven by suitability or experience considerations, run the risk of adversely impacting the tax revenue generated by the state, as well as limiting customer choice in what would otherwise be a robust and competitive industry,” Robert Moncrief Jr., legal and regulatory counsel for bet365, wrote.
“Alternatively, this requirement may result in having an applicant that is otherwise disqualified, simply find a qualifying entity that has no actual participation in the operation of sports wagering to be their shell license holder simply to meet the ownership criteria while the would be disqualified entity becomes a licensed supplier, but the functional equivalent of the mobile license holder,” Moncrief continued. “Either of these scenarios result in regulatory limitations that fail to achieve the intent of the legislation.”
Another public commenter, Malik Edwards with Bet on Black LLC, was frustrated by vague language from the SWARC about diversity and inclusion measures. Edwards wants increased transparency concerning the ownership of various sports betting companies operating in the state.
Edwards also asked for another disparity study looking into the SWARC’s ability to apply race and gender-conscious measures within the regulations and application materials. Edwards doesn’t believe the completed disparity study paints a clear picture of the industry and the SWARC’s potential to impose various measures.
The SWARC plans to hold at least one October meeting — the next meeting is currently scheduled for Oct. 19 — to discuss and implement any proposed changes to regulations that stem from the public comments. SWARC staff wants any changes to be published in the Oct. 21 edition of the Maryland Register.
Oct. 21 is also the date when the mobile sports wagering license application window closes. After Oct. 21, the SWARC and Maryland Lottery will work to award and issue mobile licenses. Up to 60 such licenses are available in the state.
If there are fewer than 60 applicants, which is expected, the SWARC will work to award licenses on a rolling basis. That sets the stage for a potential launch of mobile sportsbooks in November or December.