Maryland sports wagering continues to make steady if deliberate progress as the state evolves in the latest iteration of legalized gambling.
The casino industry in Maryland was slow in getting started relative to some surrounding states, such as Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but has become a reliable source of education funding for the state.
In year-to-date comparisons, the casino industry has increased revenues more than 20% over 2021 and that has led to the gaming industry contributing about $130 million to the state in just the first two months of 2022.
Now, Maryland sports betting has been added to the state’s gaming offerings, having launched in December.
Sports betting, as a rule is not quite as consistent as, say, slot machines. That reality was illustrated in the sports betting industry overall as January revenues were strong but February saw a substantial dip, the result of a Super Bowl that produced so-so results for some sportsbooks and a calendar that had three fewer days, one less full weekend and no NFL betting, save for the Super Bowl.
John Martin, director of Maryland’s Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, often finds himself explaining the nuances and vagaries of the sports gaming business as he did at the state Lottery & Gaming Control Commission meeting this week.
“No one inside the industry was too concerned with the numbers from January (and) February and now into March,” Martin said Thursday. “So, there’s going to be a cyclical nature. We are establishing the benchmark this go-around. So, when people ask me, ‘So how are we doing, what are your expectations?’ I have none. … We’re establishing what those expectations are by just the nature of being in the (sports wagering) business.
”Those of us who know the business know that January is going to be strong and February, even though it has a big event, not so much. And then, of course, (with) the madness that is March (college basketball) we’ll get us back on the upswing.”
February Numbers Down
So far, sports wagering in Maryland has been limited to retail operations and while the revenue performance of retail sports betting is not usually as volatile as online sports betting operations, Maryland saw a slump in February compared to January. Handle was down 21.5% in February from January and aggregate hold was an unusually low 3.74%. Still, Maryland did better than some states whose online sports operations drove an aggregate revenue loss because of online promotions and bonus giveaways.
At the moment, the expansion of sports gambling in Maryland is idling. There are five retail sportsbooks taking bets, all of them in casinos.
Four smaller businesses have been issued retail licenses but haven’t been able to get going yet. The latest is Bingo World, which just recently was approved for a sports betting facility license by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC). However, three other entities — all OTBs with food and beverage service — have been licensed for a few months but haven’t taken a bet yet.
Online Still a Ways Off
“As we took action last month on the validation of Bingo World verification, the folks at SWARC at their March 16 commission meeting approved the license — so, we’ll keep working with Bingo World and three other approved entities to move them through the sports wagering pipeline and hopefully, we’ll have some good news to report on that front,” Martin said.
As far as online sports wagering is concerned, the most optimistic forecast is that it won’t happen until the start of the 2022 NFL season but in reality, that timeline is entirely dependent of developments that are hard to predict.
The next step is the completion of a disparity analysis that will be essential in guiding the SWARC as it applies the state’s sports gaming law’s aspirational goal of including minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports gambling industry.
Maryland Retail Reports
Among the retail operators who are doing business, the Hollywood Casino in Perryville reported that its Barstool Sports retail sportsbook will begin construction on April 4 and should be completed in 10 weeks.
The Horseshoe Baltimore Brews Brothers sports bar opened in February as an enhancement to that sportsbook at the city casino.
Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover has established itself as the sports betting leader in the early going with a multi-million dollar Sports & Social sportsbook-bar-restaurant in partnership with FanDuel Maryland.
MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill was eager to tell the commission about a monster win on its table games recently. One lucky player, identified as “John C.”, hit a seven-card straight flush (5 to the 10 in hearts) in face-up pai gow poker for more than $3 million. It was the largest jackpot in that casino’s history and apparently was a progressive jackpot.