Maryland Online Betting Takes Step Forward with Drafts of Rules, Applications

Maryland Online Betting Takes Step Forward with Drafts of Rules, Applications
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Ron Fritz

The march toward fully rolling out the expansive Maryland online betting program continued at a steady if deliberate pace with Monday’s posting of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission’s draft regulations and applications.

They are for competitive retail sports wagering facility licenses and online sports wagering licenses. Notification came via the state’s Lottery & Gaming Control Agency with the draft documents posted on swarc.org Monday morning.

The SWARC will consider the draft documents at a July 13 meeting and if the commission approves the drafts, the regulations will be filed with the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review as both emergency and proposed regulations. Subsequently, a public comment period will be announced in the Maryland Register.

In its announcement, Lottery & Gaming added the reminder that the draft documents are not final and a date when applications for Maryland betting apps will be accepted has not yet been established. 

That date will be decided after SWARC considers the results and the review of an industry analysis that is currently being conducted.

In the meantime, potential applicants are encouraged to review the regulations and applications and begin preparing the information and materials that will be required once they get the green light to file applications.

Emphasis in Maryland on Women, Minorities Participating

Of particular emphasis in the Maryland gaming law is that substantial participation by minorities and women is being strongly encouraged.

That point is highlighted by a boldfaced note in each application that refers to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that awardees are required to sign.

The MOU “requires the awardee to make serious, good faith efforts to interview minority and female investors in any future attempts to raise venture capital or attract new investors to the entity” which is awarded either a sports wagering facility license or a mobile sports wagering license.

The SWARC draft applications make multiple mentions of the obligation of applicants/awardees to make good-faith efforts to engage and enlist minority and female participation.

Operators Also Must Apply to Lottery & Gaming

In addition to making application with the SWARC, applicants also have to make separate applications to the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission.

In June, Gov. Larry Hogan publicly complained of the slow-moving approval process and called out the SWARC to speed up the process, saying that he wanted online sports gambling up and running by the start of the football season. However, the SWARC is an independent commission with members appointed by both the Democrat-controlled legislature as well as the Republican governor.

After Hogan’s complaint, the SWARC chairman, Tom Brandt, who is one of Hogan’s own appointees, pointed out that Maryland’s complex and unique sports gambling law requires the SWARC to take certain steps that are necessary to ensure it is complying with the law. The sports wagering law was passed by the legislature and signed by Hogan in 2021.

Launch of Maryland Online Market Doesn’t Appear Close

Considering all the steps still required — including a 30-day comment period that hasn’t even been scheduled yet — it would be near-impossible for online sports wagering to begin by the start of the NFL season (training camps are about to open), and sometime in 2023 is a far more likely target.

It is likely that many Maryland sportsbook promotions will be available near the launch of the market.

As it stands, Marylanders can gamble on sports in five casinos that have opened traditional retail sportsbooks, mostly in locations that are within relatively convenient driving distances of the state’s most populous areas. 

Four more smaller businesses (three OTBs and a bingo facility), some in less populated counties, have also been awarded licenses for retail sportsbooks. But so far, they have not completed the finishing touches that will allow Lottery & Gaming to issue the licenses that would allow those businesses to begin taking wagers.

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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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