Sports Betting in Maryland Takes Step Toward Late Fall Launch

Sports Betting in Maryland Takes Step Toward Late Fall Launch
By Bill Ordine

The deliberate march toward launching sports betting in Maryland, almost a year after voters overwhelmingly approved legalization, took another required step Wednesday with a public comment session.

That public comment session, held by the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, followed a meeting of the Sports Wagering Application and Review Commission (SWARC) on Tuesday. The new state law expands gambling in Maryland.

RELATED: Maryland’s wagering concept should start only when ready

Applicants for retail and online gambling licenses face two tiers of approvals – one from the SWARC, which carries a duty to adhere to the Maryland gambling law’s mandate for racial and gender inclusion; and one from the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, which investigates and vets for suitability and adherence to certain typical requirements for gambling operators.

At Wednesday’s meeting, proposed gambling regulations, which were made public in August, were reviewed one-by-one with public comments invited. Among the comments, online gambling operator PointsBet, which is partnered with the Riverboat on the Potomac OTB operation, had a request regarding the timing of the go-ahead for launching online sports gambling operations. PointsBet asked that all online operators be allowed to start simultaneously.

Late Fall Retail Start

It’s generally assumed that retail sportsbook operations in Maryland will come before online operations. On Tuesday, Lottery & Gaming director John Martin repeated what has been understood for a while: That retail operations won't begin until at least late fall (early winter is also a possibility). It also has been assumed that online operations won’t launch until sometime in 2022.

Lottery & Gaming also heard from businessman Emmanuel Bailey, who urged regulators to amend the regulations to require gaming license applicants to detail their diversity inclusion details at the beginning of the application process rather than granting leeway of up to six months. Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes, who helped champion the diversity and inclusion elements of Maryland’s sports gambling law, addressed regulators reinforcing that mandate.

Bailey also suggested that the regulations include a category of license that’s not in the current law. That new category would allow for self-service kiosks in bars and restaurants that are 51% minority-owned. It’s not clear such a change would be within the purview of regulators.

A representative from Major League Baseball urged that MLB (and presumably other sports leagues) be directly notified should allegations of wrong-doing, such as game-fixing, arise.

Regarding the type and number of licenses, the current expansive law provides for four classes of licensees — from major casinos to racetracks, OTBS and bingo halls, and possibly to bars and restaurants. The law could put scores of retails sportsbooks throughout the state and eventually, allow for dozens of online operators.

Online Application Process Has Begun

At the moment, 17 specified locations identified in the sports betting law are eligible to begin their applications through an online process.

Martin noted on Sept. 14, “We anticipate that some of the 17 specified locations may be able to start taking sports wagers late this fall or early this winter, in time for the NFL playoffs. We’re actively working to expedite the process.”

Those locations are:

  • Maryland’s six casinos: MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill; Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover; Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore; Hollywood Casino in Perryville; Rocky Gap Casino in Flintstone; and Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin.
  • Five off-track betting facilities: Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium; Jockey Bar and Grill in Boonsboro; Greenmount Station in Hampstead; Long Shot’s in Frederick; and Riverboat on the Potomac in Colonial Beach, Virginia. (in Maryland waters of the Potomac River).
  • Three professional sports locations: Baltimore Ravens; Baltimore Orioles; and FedEx Field in Landover.
  • Two bingo halls: Bingo World in Baltimore (Anne Arundel County); and Rod ‘N’ Reel in Chesapeake Beach.
  • Horse racing tracks: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Laurel Park Race Track in Laurel (sharing a single license).

The 30-day public comment period for Maryland’s sports wagering regulations began in late August and runs through Sept. 27. It’s expected that a number of comments will be submitted in writing. For more information, visit here.

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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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