Maryland sports fans who are eager to bet using their computers and mobile devices now have a calendar date to circle. But considering the pace that the online sports wagering process has taken, they might want to use pencil rather than pen.
Jim Nielsen, deputy director of the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, told commissioners of another group involved in the sports betting approval process Wednesday that, if all went smoothly, Maryland online sports gambling could launch by the Super Bowl, Feb. 12, 2023, depending on several factors.
Nielsen was addressing the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which has a key role in implementing the state’s sports wagering law, including fulfilling the law’s intent for greater diversity in the sports betting industry. The SWARC considered further actions regarding online and retail sports wagering during its meeting.
The SWARC approved the gaming application with minor tweaks, but those applications can’t be released until other milestones are hit, one of which is the receipt and legal analysis of a long-awaited sports wagering industry analysis being done by an outside consultant.
The SWARC commissioners had been provided with draft applications for both online gaming applicants and competitive facility (meaning in-person sportsbooks) applicants.
Timelines were discussed, such as requiring applicants to submit applications to SWARC 45 days after the applications are available. And no later than 14 days after submitting applications to SWARC, applicants must submit applications on their qualifications to Lottery & Gaming.
Reviews of the applications will be dependent on the number and complexity of the applications.
Maryland retail sports betting launched Dec. 9, 2021, though Maryland mobile betting apps have yet to launch.
Emphasis on Process
As has been the case with retail sportsbooks so far in Maryland, after an applicant is determined to possess the “qualifications” for a license by Lottery & Gaming, and after SWARC “awards” a license, then an applicant must still successfully compete a controlled demonstration of its operation before Lottery and Gaming “issues” a license.
While Lottery & Gaming’s Nielsen said it’s impossible to determine a specific timeline to complete all the steps that still need to be taken, “staff believes that if the applications can be issued within the next week or two, it’s possible that Marylanders could be able to bet on the Super Bowl on a mobile platform. I think that’s certainly everybody’s hope.” (Further down the line, a popular local team such as the Ravens should be a big draw for Maryland NFL betting.)
But there are factors outside the control of Lottery & Gaming, Nielsen added.
In addition, there is also a 30-day period of public comment required. A meeting for the public will be held 11 a.m. on Sept. 9, at Lottery & Gaming headquarters at the Montgomery Park Business Center in Baltimore.
SWARC Commissioner Randy Mariner, who is also the chairman of the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission, noted that "in May we had public outrage (over the delayed launch of online), the public is clamoring to get this thing going.”
Still to be determined is whether licenses are to be issued all on the same day or on a rolling basis as applicants who are awarded licenses are able to show they’re ready to launch. Lottery & Gaming cautioned that waiting for all applicants to be ready, including less experienced operators, will delay the process.
That kind of delay could take online wagering past the Super Bowl.
Setting the Scene
Hammering out the specific language of the applications has been a deliberate process in Maryland’s attempt to launch online sports wagering because of a strong emphasis in the Maryland sports betting law to include minority and female participation, and considerable time has gone into how to legally advance that ambition.
In addition to its votes on the draft applications, the SWARC also voted to “award” facility licenses to Maryland Stadium Sub, LLC – essentially FedExField in Landover, home of the NFL Washington Commanders – and Chesapeake Gaming, LLC, an off-track betting facility (OTB) in Boonesboro in Washington County.
So far, Maryland has seen six retail sportsbooks start taking wagers, five are in casinos and one at a bingo facility, and now, five more retail sportsbooks have been greenlighted by SWARC but still need to complete final phase approvals (including controlled demonstrations) by Lottery & Gaming.
The next SWARC meeting is Sept. 26.
When online wagering launches in Maryland, check with us for the top Maryland sports betting promo codes available.