Maryland sports betting is facing a dismal future after renewed legislative struggles have left the state’s market barren.
The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Committee recently met a few weeks ago but was not able to make any substantial progress towards legalizing sports betting in Maryland. The SWARC, among other jobs, has been tasked with creating rules for operators to follow prior to and after obtaining licenses and balancing operating rights amongst minority and women owners.
The recent deadlocks, however, have caused many to fear that online sports betting will not be up and running until around the 2023 Super Bowl, if that. Previous estimates had stated that Maryland could be operational by the start of the 2022 football season.
Maryland sports betting hits a fork in the road
Retail-based sports betting is already legal in Maryland, but the much more lucrative and desirable online sector remains in the dark. This comes despite the collaboration that had been taking place between officials, operators, and other parties both internally and externally involved in the process.
“I’m skeptical Maryland launches mobile in 22,” Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said during a company earnings call, adding that “if and when mobile launches, you should expect us to be competitive there as well.”
The biggest problem for Maryland legislators getting mobile betting on its feet is the distribution of licenses; in May, Spectrum Gaming, along with Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the SWARC’s advising law firm, hosted a seminar for small businesses looking to obtain one of 60 retail or 30 online licenses. Taft attorney Kimberly Copp said it was a “truthful, honest and successful event,” although it did also reveal the immediate problems.
“I think that suggests a significant hurdle for us in attracting quality applicants for sports wagering licenses in Maryland, given the constraints that were articulated at the seminar,” SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt said at the time.
James Nielsen, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Maryland Gaming & Regulatory Oversight Division, said that he foresaw a learning curve for applicants, and felt that officials were being too stringent with them, per CBS Baltimore.
“Some of the entities who have less experience in the gaming segments are learning it’s more complicated than anticipated,” Nielsen said during a SWARC meeting on April 21, according to CBS.
Holding onto positivity
Despite the trouble ironing out certain details, there are reasons for optimism; first and foremost, with retail betting already in effect, Maryland has made more tangible progress than states such as Massachusetts.
Maryland is also a prime territory for future gambling giants to jump in, given its affiliations with the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland, and others. Giants such as FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM, and more will all figure to be players in the Maryland market.
Governor Larry Hogan placed the state’s first legal bet at the MGM National Harbor in late 2021, forecasting a Super Bowl between the then-Washington Football Team and Ravens.
“Today marks the culmination of more than a year of effort to get sports betting up and running here in the State of Maryland,” Hogan said after placing his $50 wager.
“In addition to allowing Marylanders to bet on football, basketball, and more, sports betting will also help to keep more dollars in-state and will provide another critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and small businesses.”
Five casinos launched after the December unveiling of legal sports betting in the mid-Atlantic state.
Maryland sports betting reached a $31m handle in March, which created over $577,000 in taxable money that was funneled to a public education fund. That number dropped to $26.9m in April, contributing to a $132.6 million total since the 2021 launch.
Although it seems unlikely that online betting will be legal by football season, there remains optimism that it will come soon thereafter. If Hogan wants to get back in on the action, his hometown Ravens are the odds-on favorites to win the AFC North at +200.