Another Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission meeting has come and gone without any update on when legal mobile sports betting might launch in the state. The commission, which meets monthly, spoke mostly about a recent educational event for small businesses hoping to engage in the sports betting industry.
John Martin, the director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, previously told Sports Handle he hoped mobile sports betting would go live in the state ahead of the 2022 NFL season.
“I’m still hanging onto football season as a start for mobile, but I would admit that each day that goes by it’s a little bit more of a challenge,” Martin said in early March.
Since Martin’s comments, more than mere days have passed. It’s been over two months since Martin shared those thoughts with Sports Handle, and the SWARC hasn’t provided an update on the status of an important disparity study in its two most recent meetings. The group is waiting for results from the study before fully jumping into the process of allowing the launch of mobile wagering platforms.
“Questionable” sounds incredibly optimistic. What a disaster, @GovLarryHogan. There are literally states that just approved sports betting this month that will launch before Maryland.
— Wodes (@PatWodack) May 18, 2022
It seems questionable at best to expect legal mobile sports betting by Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. For that to happen, the SWARC would likely need to start completing tasks at a faster pace than it has during any point in its existence.
Competitive licenses being discussed
Maryland legislation designated 17 sports betting licensees within the state. Several of those designated entities have applied for and been awarded sports betting licenses, and only one (Rocky Gap Casino) has said it doesn’t plan to apply for a sports wagering license.
In addition to the 17 designated locations, Maryland’s sports betting regulations allow for an additional 30 locations to receive retail betting licenses. There are also 60 mobile licenses available, although it doesn’t seem like all 60 available licenses will be necessary.
The SWARC and its lawyers are working to create the applications for those competitive licenses. Kimberly Copp, the co-chair of Taft’s Gaming Industry Group, said Wednesday she hopes to soon discuss the applications with members of the SWARC. It seems like there’s some genuine progress taking place in the competitive license creation process, although it remains unclear when applications would open and when mobile licenses could be awarded.
Maryland voters approved a ballot measure legalizing sports betting in 2020, and Gov. Larry Hogan signed sports betting legislation into law in May 2021. A year later, mobile sports wagering has yet to launch, while a few retail locations went live with sports wagering options in December of 2021.
There’s a belief by those in the SWARC and lottery that Maryland could ultimately have a sports betting industry with significant involvement from minorities and women, but the process of launching various platforms has been brutally slow for bettors eager to wager. Time will tell if the wait was worth it.
Oddly quiet meeting
Wednesday’s meeting included less discussion than SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt seemed to want. At one point during the meeting — after Copp went through multiple minutes of discussion to thoroughly highlight the recent educational summit — Brandt urged commission members to ask questions about the summit or the general process of educating small businesses and entrepreneurs about the state’s sports betting industry.
An educational summit for small businesses wanting to enter the Maryland sports betting market offered a dose of reality. https://t.co/V47xiOMneI
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) May 9, 2022
“I hope some of you guys do ask some obnoxious questions today, not just let me get away with that stuff,” Brandt said with a smile.
After an awkward six-second pause reminiscent of high school classes with students who forgot to do the assigned reading, a frustrated Brandt broke the silence.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” Brandt said.
Eventually, commissioners Frank Turner and Laura Gamble shared a few statements to ensure there was at least minimal discussion about the educational summit. Regardless, the meeting only took about 20 minutes and didn’t provide clarity as to a timeline for a mobile sports betting launch.
In recent months, that’s been a theme for the SWARC meetings. They’ve often been brief, featuring minimal discussion and minimal action.
The group’s next meeting is scheduled for June 16.