After new SWARC meeting

Maryland mobile sports betting launch date remains unclear as officials finalize market studies

Retail sports betting launched in Maryland last year, at MGM National Harbor.
Reading time 2:46 min

Bad news for bettors in Maryland: a launch date for mobile sports wagering has not yet been defined, meaning a debut is likely still months away. In the meantime, enthusiasts will have to make do with retail betting, currently offered at five state casinos.

The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which reviews applications for sports wagering licenses, conducted its latest meeting on Thursday morning. The gathering provided an update on the road to mobile wagering launching - however, it probably wasn’t the one most wanted.

When asked for an update on the state’s disparity survey -the last major hurdle before legal mobile betting arrives to Old Line State-, Dave Stamper, the assistant attorney general, said there was none, according to The Southern Maryland Chronicle.

A timeline for launch is dependent upon the completion of this survey. The legislation that legalized sports betting in Maryland features a mandate that calls for women- and minority-owned businesses to participate in the market, and the SWARC has tasked law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister with completing a survey that highlights any barriers to entry these groups may face.

Stamper said the firm had “begun their work” and that they are “working to get the necessary information so they can move forward as quickly as possible” at the SWARC’s last meeting, according to the cited source. Thursday’s agenda also included updates on applications, the designated licenses, and the Sports Wagering Assistant Fund, which seeks “to maximize the opportunity for small, women and minority-owned businesses to participate in the sports wagering industry.” 

Even though the state set the goal for the launch of mobile operations by the beginning of the 2022 NFL season, the lack of movement may complicate the best-case scenario September launch. As a result, Maryland may end up having to rely only on retail wagering for the top season for sports betting.

Maryland first entered the sports betting market in 2021, after Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill into law on May 18, 2021. Retail sports gaming commenced on December 9, with the state collecting $469,297 in taxes for last year, according to the Maryland State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency (MLGC).

Earlier this month, the agency reported sports betting handle in the state for the month of March was $30 million, up from a sharp decline in February but lower than the state’s $32.5 million in sports bets mark achieved in January.

Five of the state’s six casinos have now opened sportsbooks: Live! Casino & Hotel; MGM National Harbor; Horseshoe Casino Baltimore; Hollywood Casino Perryville; and Ocean Downs Casino. Rocky Gap Casino has thus far made no announcements for sports betting operations.

Sports betting can also be offered in other establishments outside casinos. At SWARC’s last meeting, a ninth retail state sportsbook, at Bingo World, was approved, becoming the fourth non-casino facility to move on to the final step in the application process. The launch dates for these four locations are expected soon.

Off-track betting facilities Riverboat On The Potomac, Greenmount Station and Long Shots, much like Bingo World, are also awaiting final approval from the MLGC to receive their official wagering licenses. Riverboat is partnering with PointsBet for its sportsbook, and Bingo World has an agreement in place with Rush Street Interactive.

SWARC has the task of awarding up to 30 retail sports wagering licenses and up to 60 mobile sports wagering licenses, while actively seeking to “achieve racial, ethnic and gender diversity when awarding licenses.” The entity will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, May 18.

“We are hopeful that these steps can be completed in time for mobile sports wagering to launch during the 2022 football season,” MLGC Director John Martin told local media in an email. “Mobile wagering is essential for the sports wagering program to produce the level of revenue that the state is expecting, and moreover, we know it’s something sports fans are waiting for.”

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