Ravens’ fans probably have Dec. 11 circled on their calendars since the NFL schedule was announced because Baltimore is on the road against archrival Pittsburgh that Sunday and the playoff race will be heating up.
However, it’s possible the date will have even further significance. It’s realistic to believe that by the time the Ravens and Steelers tangle in a late-season AFC North showdown (or a game before or after), online Maryland sports betting finally will have launched — albeit more than two years after the state’s voters approved sports gambling in a referendum back in November 2020 by a 2-to-1 margin.
Although retail sports betting has been live in the state since last December, it’s mobile wagering that most fans crave and Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency director John Martin joins all those who are eager to see it happen.
“I’m not being bashful about it,” Martin said in a recent interview with BetMaryland.com “We want someone in Maryland placing sports wagers on a mobile platform before the end of the year. Potentially, there will be multiple platforms to choose from.”
The timeline that Martin outlined — in the most wildly optimistic scenario — could have mobile sports gambling running by mid- to late-November, but the first few weeks in December is more realistic. Even that will take serious effort on the parts of all involved, particularly the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), a second entity in the sports betting licensing process apart from the state’s Lottery & Gaming Control Commission.
Stay close to BetMaryland.com for interviews with key figures such as Martin, news on sports betting developments and for the best Maryland sports betting promos.
Key Dates Along the Way
Here are the key dates:
Oct. 21. The window closes for mobile and competitive retail sports wagering license applicants to file their necessary information with the SWARC. The SWARC has 45 days to approve applications but doesn’t have to take the entirety of that time.
Lottery & Gaming has had its application process open since June. “Those (applicants) who have been paying attention, they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do, and they have their paperwork in,” Martin said.
Oct. 27. The Lottery and Gaming Control Commission meets and holds its hearings on the qualifications of applicants for mobile sports gaming licenses and votes on the applicants. In Martin’s words, it will be the first time the public sees how many applicants “are in the game, who are they and they’ll probably be the people you can probably recite off the top of your head.”
That means sports betting operations associated with casinos who are already running live sportsbooks and the big online names already doing sports betting nationally. Lottery and Gaming will quicky send the qualified applicants to the SWARC.
Nov. 16. SWARC has its first regularly-scheduled meeting after getting the handoff from Lottery & Gaming with the task of “awarding” mobile licenses on the table. However, SWARC could have a special meeting sometime after Oct. 27 and before Nov. 16 to get the ball rolling. That’s one of the advantages of the SWARC’s recent decision to award licenses on a rolling basis.
Regardless of when the SWARC acts (either on Nov. 16 or before), the action switches back to Lottery & Gaming, where the awardees will have to show their ability to effectively run online sports gambling and successfully complete a controlled demonstration. At that point, Lottery & Gaming can elect to issue licenses and operators can start taking bets.
Strong Reasons to Get It Right
The process of getting online sports betting up-and-running in Maryland has been complicated by the sports betting law’s mandate that strongly encourages meaningful participation by minority- and women-owned businesses. Trying to stay true to the law has been the SWARC’s responsibility and the commission has taken a lot of heat for the slow going from sports fans all the way to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
“We’re ready for the baton. When (SWARC) hands it to us, we’re ready to go,” Martin said, comparing the back-and-forth approval process to a relay race. “I can’t run their race for them — and they’re doing it with their guidance in mind and their mandate in mind — and we’ll be ready to move as soon as they give us the green light.”
As an aside, the SWARC is scheduled to meet Oct. 19 but that’s before even the Lottery & Gaming Commission votes on qualifications on Oct. 27, so the SWARC can’t act on awarding licenses on Oct. 19.
“They’ve got, for all the right reasons, the intent of the law (to deal with), the requirements for diversity and equity ownerships (encouraging minority and women participation),” Martin said of SWARC. “That has to take some time and that has to play out. That’s why we’re two years now post-referendum to get this done right.”
About a year ago, Martin had voiced the hope that Maryland sports betting apps would be launched in the state by the start of the 2022 football season.
That didn’t happen, but considering the complications that have slowed the effort, Martin is glad the state is on the cusp of online Maryland NFL betting.
“Selfishly, I would have liked to have been dead-on and have had it Sept. 1,” Martin said. “From a Maryland’s fan perspective, I get the frustration. So, to be able to deliver this well in advance of the (NFL) playoffs, well in advance of the Super Bowl and March Madness, I’ve got to think that’s a win. And to do it with a diverse and multiple apps all starting close to the same time is a win.”