Maryland Commission Could Streamline License Approval

Maryland Commission Could Streamline License Approval
By Bill Ordine

Maryland’s newly appointed Sports Wagering Application Review Commission will hold its first meeting Monday and in that initial gathering, it will have an opportunity to streamline approval for some of the state’s more established applicants.

SWARC approval is a necessary early step for companies seeking retail or Maryland online sportsbook licenses.

Topics For Discussion

An agenda posted on the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) details some of the topics to be discussed when the six-person SWARC convenes for its initial meeting at 8 a.m., Monday, in Annapolis, with the top of the agenda devoted to informational topics, such as spelling out the various responsibilities of the SWARC and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

Meanwhile, there is a material “Action” item regarding additional information required of certain MD gambling applicants, specifically applicants for “noncompetitive licenses”.

The agenda item reads: “SWARC determines that, for applicants for noncompetitive sports wagering licenses, the application requirements of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission are sufficient for SWARC to make an award determination.”

The SWARC can “approve”, “disapprove” or “defer” the item.

The item applies to a limited number of potential applicants, namely casino operators and perhaps horse racing license-holders who, by virtue of the definition of their category, are in a noncompetitive classification.

Breakdown Of Classifications

Class 1-A is limited to casinos with more than 1,000 slots machines and pro sports franchises (which, unlike casinos, have not been vetted for gambling purposes). Class 1-B is limited to the state’s smaller casinos and horse racing license-holders.

There are two Class B classifications (B-1 and B-2) with a total of 30 licenses available. They are considered competitive although some of those businesses are deemed to be likely recipients of licenses, assuming they do apply and they do pass regulatory scrutiny.

Actually, there’s not much surprise that such an issue would come up because of the well-established Maryland casino industry. It has generally been acknowledged those companies that passed muster to run a casino already have the bona fides for an additional type of gaming license.

However, there is a question of whether an affirmative vote Monday on the application requirements issue will allow those applicants to begin taking sports wagers just about immediately or whether an “Approve” vote simply moves those companies closer to a start date by relieving the SWARC (and the companies) of some unnecessary administrative work.

Other topics to be discussed Monday will be, for Class B licenses, geographic constraints on licenses and transferability. And certain to be of interest to stakeholders and the public at-large is an agenda item listed as “Timeline of Events”.

It is broadly acknowledged that Maryland retail sports gambling will start first, perhaps as soon as the 2021 football season, and that Maryland online sports gambling will launch sometime in 2022.

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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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