Those hoping for some decision making at the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission meeting Wednesday regarding licensing of Maryland sports betting facility applicants were probably disappointed. There was none of a definitive nature.
What was clear at the SWARC meeting is that the painstaking step-by-step process of licensing retail sportsbooks — and the longer-range goal of eventually launching online sports betting — does continue to advance, if at a deliberate pace.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin recently told BetMaryland.com that he’s hoping to have online sports betting up and running for the 2022 NFL season.
Among the more-important steps yet to be taken is the completion of a disparity analysis that will help guide the SWARC in evaluating applicants. A unique facet of Maryland’s sports gambling law is an insistence on the substantial inclusion of small-, minority- and women-owned businesses in the state’s sports wagering industry. The analysis would address that issue.
At the SWARC’s January meeting, a lawyer from the state Attorney General’s Office reported that a contract with the outside firm that would do the analysis was close to being finalized.
While Wednesday’s YouTube live feed of the SWARC meeting appeared to have been interrupted during the disparity analysis update, sources said the contract remains close to being finalized. The SWARC later went into closed session for further legal advice.
4 More Sports Betting Applicants
A bit of news reported to the commission by Maryland Lottery & Gaming, the regulatory agency that’s also involved in the approval process, was that in addition to the five retail sportsbooks already operating (all in casinos) and the previously reported three others that have been approved but are still working on the final stages of licensing (all OTBs with dining), four more applicants have submitted material for the approval process. They were not named.
The first retail bet in the state was made by Gov. Larry Hogan at the BetMGM Sportsbook in MGM National Harbor on Dec. 9.
In January, the sports betting handle was a little over $32.5 million, an increase of 96.5% from December’s $16.6 million. Not all of the sportsbooks launched at the same time in December.
SWARC Website Coming
In the Maryland sports gambling law, 17 entities were specifically designated — such as the state’s six casinos, the state’s horse race tracks, pro sports facilities as well as some OTBs and bingo halls — as being in the first group of applicants to be considered.
In addition, the SWARC heard from Lottery & Gaming that good progress has been made in establishing a SWARC website for perspective gambling license applicants. The website should be available by the end of the week and will include an application and important information to help applicants navigate the road to licensing.
A survey, which was sent by an outside law firm to gambling operators seeking input, is still in the process of being returned.
SWARC Meeting Update
Update on the Wednesday SWARC meeting, a portion of which was unavailable on YouTube live-streaming because of a technical issue:
SWARC chairman Tom Brandt reminded the commission that to comply with state and federal law, it was advised last September that a survey of the industry must be conducted for SWARC and its advisers, “indicating whether disparities exist in the sports wagering industry between the availability of, and the utilization of, firms owned by minorities and women. Upon its completion, our commission can determine whether it has a strong basis for implementing race- and gender- conscious measures when issuing the new licenses.”
Brandt noted that state’s Office of the Attorney General has been cautious in commissioning such a study.
David Stamper of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General said of the industry disparity analysis procurement that some minor details still need to be worked out, but that he expects those details will be resolved quickly. Shortly after that’s taken care of, a finalized contract will be submitted to the Department of Legislative Services for approval.