Growing doubts that mobile Maryland sports betting will launch in time for the 2022 NFL season deepened during the Caesars Entertainment earnings call this week.
In the Q&A portion of the conference call Tuesday, Caesars CEO Tom Reeg was discussing costs usually associated when a new state launches online sports betting and acknowledged an Ohio launch was expected this year. Ohio regulators face a legal mandate to start online gambling by Jan. 1.
However, Reeg did not initially mention Maryland. So, when asked about Maryland, Reeg said bluntly, “I'm skeptical Maryland launches mobile in ‘22”
Whenever online sports betting does go live in Maryland, Reeg agreed the state offered a good opportunity for Caesars Sportsbook Maryland.
A Caesars casino — Horseshoe Baltimore in Baltimore City — already has a retail sportsbook and the company has a prominent marketing relationship with the NFL Baltimore Ravens so, Caesars’ online sportsbook would appear to be cemented in Maryland, pending regulatory approvals.
However, timing is the big issue.
“If and when mobile launches, you should expect us to be competitive there as well,” Reeg said of Maryland.
Maryland Will Have Online Wagering at Some Point
The “if” part of Reeg’s comment might make impatient sports bettors in Maryland blanch but that can be written off as glancing verbiage and doesn’t actually mean Reeg has reservations that Maryland will ever have sports betting.
Still, Reeg’s comments illustrate that at least one highly interested party in Maryland’s online sports betting marketplace is of the opinion getting a functioning internet betting apparatus up-and-running by the coming NFL season is moving from “very difficult” to “almost impossible.”
Maryland, which does have five operating retail sportsbooks located in casinos, has legalized online sports betting but the process is bogged down as the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which is tasked with awarding licenses, awaits a completed diversity study.
The study is being done by an outside firm and when asked by a SWARC commissioner at the group’s April meeting for an update on the study, a lawyer for the State Attorney General’s Office declined to make public comment.
The study is considered essential as the SWARC attempts to fulfill the mandate of the state’s sports wagering legislation to encourage minority- and women-owned business participation in the Maryland sports wagering industry.
Lottery & Gaming Trying to Move Process Along
The established regulatory agency for gambling in Maryland, the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission as well as the Lottery & Gaming Control Agency — with the agency doing much of the heavy lifting in vetting gambling license applications and overseeing gaming businesses — has tried to move along the process for licensing as expeditiously as possible.
The director of the Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, John Martin, has said previously he hopes that sports wagering can commence by the start of the NFL season — but with the caveat that such a sentiment may be optimistic. The truth is some of the moving parts in getting online sports betting launched are outside the control of Lottery & Gaming.
On Friday, the SWARC is holding an informational gathering mainly for small businesses who have interest in applying for retail sportsbook licenses. At that meeting, potential applicants will hear from panels consisting of industry experts, attorneys and regulators.
The current operating retail sportsbooks in Maryland are at Live! Casino & Hotel (Hanover), Horseshoe Baltimore, MGM National Harbor (Oxon Hill), Hollywood Casino (Perryville), and Ocean Downs Casino (Berlin). Four smaller businesses have been awarded retail sportsbook licenses but have not started taking bets yet.