A consultant to the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission on Thursday discussed details of an upcoming informational forum being held for the benefit of prospective applicants for Maryland sports betting licenses.
Kimberly Copp, of the Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm, said the Maryland Educational Summit will be held 9 a.m.-noon on May 6 in the Montgomery Park Business Center Auditorium in Baltimore. The informational meeting had been announced previously with details and registration posted on the SWARC.org.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency reported during the SWARC meeting Thursday that two retail sportsbooks that have been awarded licenses by the SWARC appear to be next in line to actually start taking wagers. They are the Riverboat on the Potomac, which sits in Maryland waters at Colonial Beach, Virginia, and the Greenmount Station OTB in Hampstead. So far, five casinos have operating retail sportsbooks.
Both the Riverboat and Greenmount are doing construction and working to deal with issues such as internal controls and responsible gaming plans, Lottery & Gaming reported.
However, more significant was the lack of news on the progress of online sports wagering in the state.
The state’s five retail sportsbooks had a little more than $31 million in handle in March. That was an increase of 21.5% from February ($25.5 million). Revenue in March was close to $3.85 million and that was up 330.4% from February (about $894,000).
Disparity Study Non-Update
The state Attorney’s General office has had responsibility for moving along a disparity analysis that is necessary for SWARC to even consider applicants for online licenses but public information regarding that analysis has been nearly non-existent. Previously, it was announced that a contract had been agreed to with an outside firm to conduct the analysis.
With the issue not on the SWARC agenda, it was left for SWARC commissioner Randy Marriner, who is also chairman of the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission, to ask for an update.
David Stamper, who has been representing the AG’s office at SWARC meetings, simply said: “I’ll send you an email as to why we’re not providing an update.”
At which point, SWARC chairman Tom Brandt noted: “I’ve tried on that topic and I’ve been admonished.”
SWARC Commissioner Bert Hash Jr., then requested that whatever email was being sent to Marriner also be sent to all commissioners.
Stamper responded, “Yeah, I can do that.”
Why Disparity Study is Needed
The disparity study/analysis is key because of Maryland’s unique gaming law that strongly encourages equity participation by minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports gambling industry. Accomplishing that goal while not inviting legal challenges would seem to require underlying support.
In the meantime, the going has been extremely slow on the broad process of taking applications and awarding licenses for online sports wagering.
In the past, John Martin, director of the Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, said he hoped that online sports betting could begin by the start of the 2022 NFL season. As time goes on, that seems less and less likely.
Another unique feature to the Maryland gaming law has been the availability of grant money to smaller businesses for various start-up purposes. So far, two businesses, the Riverboat and Long Shot’s OTB in Frederick, which has also been awarded a retail license but hasn’t started sports betting operations yet, have been approved for the assistance.