By Cody Kutzer
Despite being signed into law in May 2021, Marylanders are still waiting for the ability to place mobile sports betting wagers. Even with Governor Larry Hogan recently pushing for online sportsbooks to be up and ready by NFL kickoff, there’s still no tangible progress being made and certainly no launch date.
So, what gives? Why is mobile sports betting still not available in Maryland? Why does it take so long for sports betting apps to launch after being legalized? We’ll take a look at the hold up in Maryland as well as why some states like North Carolina and Massachusetts are struggling to even get started.
Maryland’s Delay: Multiple Agencies and the Disparity Study
While Maryland is certainly lagging behind other states, it has taken eight months on average for states to go from signed law to first bet. The main reason behind Maryland’s mobile betting delay is the disparity study.
The aim of the study is to look at the sports betting industry as a whole and determine whether or not there’s a compelling interest to implement measures to assist minorities and women in the industry.
While Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Committee (SWARC) has become the focal point of the hold up, it technically isn’t their fault. Whenever Marylanders voted to bring sports betting to the state, part of the bill explicitly states the intention to “…maximize the ability of…minority and women-owned businesses to participate in the sports wagering industry to participate in the sports wagering industry, including through the ownership of licensed sports wagering entities under the bill.” Because of this, SWARC has stated they won’t move forward until the disparity study is completed.
In addition to SWARC reviewing and approving mobile licenses, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission is also involved in the process. Whenever multiple agencies are involved in the decision-making, delays are much more likely. MLGCC has stated they’re ready to push forward and simply waiting on SWARC.
Could Maryland see mobile betting implemented soon after the disparity study is complete? Maybe. Although if history is any indicator, don’t hold your breath.
Stumbling Blocks in Other States
The mobile sports betting delay is no doubt frustrating for those living in Maryland, but other states prove the old adage of “it could always be worse”. Massachusetts and North Carolina are prime examples.
In Massachusetts, sports betting has been brought to the legislation table several times and has resulted in zero progress. Recently, Massachusetts’ House and Senate have proposed separate sports betting bills. Neither have gotten anywhere with the key issues being collegiate sports betting and tax rates.
The House bill allows full college betting and a 15% mobile tax, where the Senate bill completely bans betting on college sports and calls for a 35% mobile tax. There are also no retail options in the state, which means those wanting to place legal bets have to travel to a neighboring state. With Massachusetts’ legislative period coming up at the end of July, it seems sports betting in the state will be put on hold once again.
North Carolinans were just put through an emotional rollercoaster of a ride that ultimately ended in utter disappointment. Mobile sports betting in the state was linked to two separate bills, increasing the chances of something going sideways. The first of which passed NC’s House in November 2021. The Senate wouldn’t vote on it for seven more months.
After it seemed as though mobile sports betting was sure to be put off for at least another year, there was unexpected positive movement and it appeared as though mobile sportsbooks like DraftKings North Carolina were a sure thing. Then, as it was headed toward its final vote, a North Carolina representative made a surprise amendment to ban all betting on college sports. For reference, no state with legalized sports betting has a complete college betting ban. This effectively killed the bill and since then, the state’s legislative period has ended. For North Carolina, it’s back to the drawing boards for 2023.
So, yes, the mobile delay in Maryland has been long and frustrating. In the end, sports betting will go live in Maryland but for now, patience is call for.