By Rebecca Hanchett
Maryland online sports betting applications are expected to roll out by mid-September, say state sports betting regulators, with mobile licensing expected to follow.
That makes a Maryland mobile sports betting launch seem increasingly possible in 2022. But businesses planning to compete for one of the state’s 60 mobile sports betting licenses still face a long road ahead, thanks to Maryland’s somewhat clunky sports betting regulatory process.
The process is now largely on hold until state regulators approve mobile sports betting regulations and complete a required analysis of the sports betting industry. Initial approval of mobile rules is expected to come later this month, followed by state legislative approval and a 30-day public comment period.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote in a June 14 letter to state gaming regulators that the process “is the byproduct of an overly-complex piece of legislation that was skewed to appease special interest groups and organizations. The rest of the holdup lies with bureaucratic hurdles and legal obstacles.”
How long state regulators will take to award and issue the licenses, once regulations are approved and applicants are submitted, remains to be seen.
SWARC Hopes To Start Taking Mobile Applications By Late Summer
At the June 29 meeting of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), commission chair Tom Brandt said he expects SWARC to begin accepting mobile sports betting licensing applications by late summer. That would potentially give applicants up to three months to be vetted by regulators and still launch before the end of the year.
SWARC is one of two regulatory agencies responsible for betting sports betting licensees in Maryland (the other is Maryland Lottery and Gaming, or MLG, in Baltimore). SWARC awards the licenses to businesses qualified and investigated by MLG, which can then issue the licenses.
But how quickly the licenses are issued depends on how quickly regulators can work through the licensing process. That includes the start of the application process, which Brandt commented on last month.
“I’m sharing this information to help us all adjust expectations as we proceed with our responsibilities,” he said. “It’s our continued hope that we may be able to begin accepting applications in late summer.”
A Maryland Mobile Launch Unlikely By Sept. 8
With a late-summer start to the application process, Maryland mobile sports betting is unlikely to launch by NFL kickoff on September 8 as requested by an increasingly frustrated Gov. Larry Hogan in the June 14 letter sent to SWARC.
The NFL is the top sports betting market in the US, with approximately $270 million in revenue from sports betting and related deals expected last season alone. Any launch after that date will undoubtedly impact Maryland state revenue, at least in the short term.
To quote Hogan, “tens of millions of dollars in economic investment and education revenue that should be going to our public schools and students” is being lost to “endless bureaucratic roadblocks that continue to hold back progress.”
“Sports fans in Maryland simply want to be able to place bets on their mobile devices – that’s what they voted for, and they are angry and discouraged over SWARC’s inability to make it happen.”
E-Licensing Portal Open For Qualification Of Applicants
The governor’s letter addressed what he called a delay in the rollout of both retail and mobile sports betting in Maryland. To date, only five of 17 locations designated by law to receive retail sports betting licenses under Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law have opened to the public.
An additional 30 retail licenses will be available under a separate set of regulations now being drafted by SWARC, which will award those licenses and the pending mobile licenses separately.
As with mobile sports betting, the application process for the additional retail licenses has yet to begin.
That doesn’t mean state regulators have been sitting around doing nothing. MLG – which must qualify all applicants that go before SWARC – has opened an e-licensing portal to help businesses start the qualification process, according to a June 17 article in The Baltimore Sun.
Businesses may use the portal to ask questions of MLG staff and initiate the application process for a small fee of up to $5200. That fee can be at least partially refunded, should a business decide to back out early in the process.
It’s an effort to financially protect small businesses – including minority- and women-owned startups new to the industry – that stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars by entering the mobile sports betting industry unprepared.