Three competing Maryland casinos -Horseshoe Baltimore, Live! Casino and MGM National Harbor- joined forces on Monday to press the state on promised sports betting licenses. The venues are concerned about their sportsbook operations not being up and running during the NFL season, regarded as the most lucrative period on the US sports calendar.
While the casinos have been found eligible to hold a license by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, they also require a sign-off from the newly created Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) to launch. The panel has not approved yet any of the applications it received from the control commission in October, reports Maryland Matters.
In a joint letter Monday, the gambling venues are now claiming the SWARC is failing to follow the process outlined by the legislature with regard to license applications. In addition to three casinos pushing the state, a total of 17 brick-and-mortar venues can apply for sports wagering licenses.
“The structure of this bill was very complex but it explicitly mandated that 17 named entities in the State receive ‘Class A’ retail sports wagering licenses as long as they pass the scrutiny of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission,” the casinos wrote in their statement.
While the SWARC held a meeting on November 3, it took no action on five applications that have been accepted by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, further reports the previously cited news source. The panel is now set to meet again this Thursday, and casinos are urging “speedy consideration” of their applications and awarding of licenses.
However, Maryland gambling venues aren’t the only ones protesting the delay. Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. also criticized the SWARC’s failure to approve applications earlier this month. “I’m sure they’re all going to be sued by all the people whose licenses have already been approved” by the Maryland gaming commission, he also declared.
A possible cause for the delay is a previously-announced commitment from lawmakers to include black and female-owned businesses in the state’s betting industry. They fear that if national-level players get a head start, smaller local firms eyeing the industry will find it hard to enter the market. Casinos have tackled this issue in their letter, although they claim this does not justify the delay.
“We understand from media reports that the delays are due to a desire to conduct a second disparity study,” which would determine whether remedial measures should be implemented “to assist minorities and women in the sports wagering industry,” the statement reads.
However, while the businesses acknowledge SWARC’s authority to conduct a second study for purposes of awarding Class B licenses, they claim this is “not a valid basis to delay the prompt award of licenses to Class A applicants.”
Furthermore, the casinos also claim the delay has affected “hundreds of Marylanders” that have been hired for the upcoming sports wagering industry. However, the new employees “have not enjoyed their first day, nor have they been given a starting date for their employment,” the venues say.