Another Meeting With No Update on Maryland Online Sports Betting Launch

Another Meeting With No Update on Maryland Online Sports Betting Launch
By Bill Ordine

There was no significant movement on sports wagering, particularly regarding the eagerly awaited introduction of online Maryland sports betting, at Thursday’s Lottery & Gaming Control Commission meeting.

Lottery & Gaming Control Agency director John Martin did mention that the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) met Wednesday without going into detail. At that meeting, the SWARC heard about progress on handling applications for the dozens of Class B retail sportsbook licenses and eventually, for online sports betting licenses.

Those incremental steps the SWARC heard about included an anticipated contract with an outside firm to develop a disparity analysis associated with race- and gender-conscious measures in the license application and awarding processes; a survey being sent to national sports wagering companies, and an outreach to local entrepreneurs who might be interested in getting into the business.

At its meeting, the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission heard the regular reports from representatives of the state’s six casinos about how COVID-19 surges impacted their respective businesses with some noting that the disruptions hurt table game play in some cases, and was an impediment to normal food and beverage activity for others.

All the casino operators with retail sports betting, which is five of the state’s six casinos, were upbeat about the sports betting at their properties. Retail sportsbooks at MGM National Harbor, Live! Hotel and Casino, Horseshoe Baltimore; Ocean Downs Casino, and Hollywood Casino all opened on various dates in December. Combined, they reported $16.55 million in wagering handle and had a total taxable win of $3.17 million, with $470,000 going to the state in taxes.

The first bet in the state was placed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Dec. 9 at MGM National Harbor’s BetMGM Sportsbook.

“We’re all looking forward to our first full month on the sports wagering business,” Martin said. “We’re looking forward to working with our partners at the SWARC. The SWARC had their meeting yesterday and continue to move forward on the next evolution of sports wagering here in the state of Maryland. So, stay tuned for more details.”

Considering the actual details that did come out of the SWARC meeting, they appear to be moving at a deliberate pace.

’Excited About the Super Bowl’

Meanwhile at Baltimore’s retail sportsbook, Horseshoe general manager Randy Conroy said that his casino was gearing up for the Super Bowl.

“We’re really excited about the Super Bowl. We’re going to have multiple venues,” Conroy said. “We’re going to be really safe about how we do it … we’ll have our new sports bar and restaurant open. We’ll have the Harbor Room, which is an event center (to) host the game, and we’ll have a lot of excitement around the Super Bowl.”

Along with the five casinos that have sportsbooks, three other businesses have been issued retail sportsbook licenses — The Riverboat, anchored at Colonial Beach, Va., but floating in Maryland waters; Long Shot’s, a restaurant and OTB in Frederick, and Greenmount OTB, a restaurant and OTB in Hampstead. However, none have started taking sports bets yet.

The state’s sixth casino, Rocky Gap Casino Resort, doesn’t have a sportsbook yet.

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A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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