The Maryland panel tasked with handling sports betting applications is set to review them on a "case-by-case" basis, which could lead to a late 2022 launch. The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, which has been gathering in recent months to hash out procedures on the applications and regulations for the bidding licenses, anticipates ramping up the frequency of its meetings in the coming weeks.
It comes in response to an anticipated influx of documents set to begin funneling in: applicants have until October 21 to submit paperwork to state officials for one of the sports wagering licenses being made available. Of the 90 licenses in total, 30 are being destined for facilities, and 60 will be handed out for mobile sports gambling.
In the SWARC’s latest meeting, held on September 22, panelists made a pivotal vote by deciding applications will be reviewed on a rolling, case-by-case basis, which officials say is designed to keep the process moving, according to The Center Square. Jim Nielsen, chief operating officer of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, recommended that course of action.
“We all know that the public was clamoring to get sports betting. We get comments about why it hasn't launched every day,” Nielsen said, as reported by the cited source. “SWARC can make mobile sports betting available somewhat sooner by awarding licenses on a rolling basis.”
Applicants are set to be subject to a series of background checks, regardless of the type of application sought. However, Nielsen believes mobile operators stand a better chance of getting off the ground quicker, by virtue of their business model requiring little construction.
The official advised against a universal award date, which he said has “a lot of inherent risks.” According to Nielsen, the staggered approach is also beneficial in its flexibility with the caps. For instance, if fewer than 60 mobile sports betting applications are submitted by the October 21 deadline, applications could still be accepted and reviewed as they are funneled in.
Maryland is working on launching legal sports betting after voters approved the move at the ballot box in November 2020, with the General Assembly formalizing the process through a bill the following spring. The legislation called for the creation of the SWARC, which works in tandem with Nielsen’s agency.
The state’s sports betting legislation features a particular focus on providing diversity opportunities for applications, but the implementation of this and other features has proven a lengthy process. This led Gov. Larry Hogan to send SWARC a letter in June, calling on the panel to expedite the process and to launch by the NFL kickoff, which ultimately did not happen.
“Marylanders have grown frustrated waiting for mobile sports wagering as they have watched it become available in state after state across the country, including our neighboring jurisdictions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.,” Hogan said at the time.
According to The Kansas City Star, SWARC officials are now eyeing the launch of sports betting apps by year’s end, and aren’t ruling out perhaps as early as November as part of the “rolling launches.” Bettors could begin signing up for Maryland sportsbook promos by late Thanksgiving, or even earlier if there is preregistration.
“Maryland Lottery and Gaming has been hard at work on background investigations,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director John A. Martin confirmed in a media release earlier this month. “A number of businesses that are planning to apply for mobile licenses have already submitted information to get their investigations started, and our licensing staff will continue guiding them through the qualification procedures.”
If online sports betting license applications, which opened on September 7, are received earlier than the October 21 deadline, review is completed sooner than 45 days, and the license is approved, the first Maryland betting apps could potentially begin operating in mid-to-late November or early December.