By Tyler Womble
Though retail sports betting is already live in Maryland, bettors have been waiting for mobile gambling to take off in the state, with the hope it would do so in time for the upcoming football season.
That seems unlikely. Though Maryland mobile sports betting appears like it will be here much faster than what’s been seen in other states, like with sports betting in Massachusetts, officials don’t see it launching in time for the NFL season.
That’s certainly a disappointment to those in Maryland excited about placing sports bets online. So why the holdup?
License issues could be reason for delay
As regulators have worked to get everything set up for Maryland mobile betting to launch, those inside and outside the process have been optimistic it would be ready to go by this football season.
That’s no longer the case, with even some high-ranking gambling executives doubtful of Maryland launching soon.
“I’m skeptical Maryland launches mobile in (20)22,” Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said in a recent company earnings call, adding that “if and when mobile launches, you should expect us to be competitive there as well.”
Though Maryland retail betting has been available since late last year, officials have run into issues in getting mobile betting off the ground. A lot of that has to do with licenses, a major part of any process for states trying to get sports betting up and running.
James Nielsen, who is the deputy director and chief operating officer for the Maryland Gaming & Regulatory Oversight Division, said recently he foresaw a learning curve for applicants and officials are “over-communicating” to them, CBS Baltimore reported.
“Some of the entities who have less experience in the gaming segments are learning it’s more complicated than anticipated,” Nielsen said during a Sports Wagering Application Review Commission meeting on April 21, according to the news outlet.
The Maryland Gaming Control Commission is required to make licenses for female and minority-owned operators a priority, after the state failed to distribute any such licenses when Maryland legalized marijuana, and officials are checking off all of the boxes in order to approve and distribute licenses to those who will operate betting platforms in the state.
Still, the industry is in much better shape in Maryland than others, like Massachusetts, where neither retail or mobile betting has launched as some lawmakers are still working on passing legislation for it.
And plenty of mobile sports betting platforms are expected to launch in Maryland when possible. Top operators like BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel and more are all predicted to get in on the action in the state, mixing together for a big-time mobile betting market.
Retail betting has taken off
With Maryland’s retail gambling market going at a strong pace, it’s no wonder officials and bettors alike hope to see mobile betting go live as soon as possible.
Maryland officially launched retail sports betting in late 2021, with Gov. Larry Hogan even placing the state’s first bet himself at the MGM National Harbor.
“Today marks the culmination of more than a year of effort to get sports betting up and running here in the State of Maryland,” Hogan said then. “In addition to allowing Marylanders to bet on football, basketball, and more, sports betting will also help to keep more dollars in-state and will provide another critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and small businesses.”
In March, Maryland retail betting had more than $31 million in handle, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, with tax money for public education totaling $577,019. A main point for proponents of sports betting is that it brings in money through taxes for local needs such as education, and that’s certainly been the case in Maryland.
Several retail casinos are open in Maryland, each with their own exclusive features and draws. Hogan expressed excitement for one of them, MGM National Harbor, on the date he placed that first bet.
“MGM is a great boost,” Hogan said when retail betting launched. “I think this is going to bring more people into the area, more people coming out here to watch games in this great new facility to bet on things. And it’s going to put people to work.
As has been seen in other states, mobile betting can generate exponentially more revenue than its retail counterpart, as it allows bettors to place wagers from wherever they please. Though the prospect of mobile betting kicking off when the NFL season does seems to have floundered, there is still hope it won’t be too long afterward that Maryland bettors can get in the game.