By Cody Kutzer
For Maryland bettors and sports fans who have been keeping up with the progress (or lack thereof) of online sports betting in the state, the acronym SWARC is likely permanently burned into your memory. But what is SWARC and what does it do? Let’s take a look at one of the groups behind Maryland’s sports betting legislation.
Sports Betting Licensing Review
Although Maryland’s SWARC, or Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, has become synonymous with mobile wagering in the state, the committee oversees both retail and
online applications. This means the FanDuel retail sportsbook at Live! Casino and Hotel as well as mobile apps like BetMGM have all been reviewed by SWARC prior to being allowed to operate in the state.
HB 940, Maryland’s sports betting legislation, allows for a total of nearly 110 licenses at full maturity.
While SWARC is responsible for reviewing all applications for those hoping to get a piece of the action, it is the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency who will provide the licensing and regulation once approved.
SWARC and the Mobile Delay
The seven-person review commission always seemed to be the scapegoat for Maryland’s online sports betting launch delay. This is because the committee had originally refused to move forward with the application process without the results of the infamous diversity study.
The purpose of the study was to determine the extent of diversity among owners, executives, and other key leadership positions. SWARC would then determine what, if any, steps need to be taken to make sure minorities were represented in Maryland sports betting.
This wasn’t technically the commission’s fault, however.
The way HB 940 was written specifically placed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion when it came to awarding licenses. From the bill itself: “…requiring the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, in a certain manner, to seek to achieve racial, ethnic, and gender diversity when awarding certain licenses and to conduct certain outreach to certain small, minority, and women business owners and entrepreneurs for certain purposes.”
The Latest Updates on Maryland Sports Betting
SWARC finally opened the online sports betting application window at the beginning of September. Operators will have until Oct. 21 to file their application and the review committee has granted themselves up to 45 days to complete the process.
It appears as though the first online sportsbook apps could launch in Maryland by the end of the year and possibly sooner. Instead of offering a universal launch date for all of the approved mobile apps, SWARC and Maryland Lottery and Gaming have opted to allow sportsbooks to go live on a rolling basis.
While it remains to be seen how this will impact smaller companies and operators with less brand recognition, it’s good news for Maryland bettors who have been patiently awaiting the ability to place bets from anywhere within state lines.
There are 30 retail and 60 mobile licenses up for grabs in Maryland, making it one of the most robust states when it comes to sports betting.