Maryland Launches Retail Sports Betting, Mobile Expected In 2022

December 10, 2021
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MGM Resorts International opened a BetMGM-branded sportsbook at its National Harbor casino on Thursday, as Maryland became the 11th state to launch legal sports betting this year.

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MGM Resorts International opened a BetMGM-branded sportsbook at its National Harbor casino on Thursday, as Maryland became the 11th state to launch legal sports betting this year.

“It’s a big day for MGM, it’s a big day for Maryland and it’s a big day for Prince George’s County,” said Republican Governor Larry Hogan, referencing the location of the MGM National Harbor casino-resort near Washington, D.C. “It has been a long time coming.”

The first legal sports bets in Maryland were placed Thursday by Hogan, former Washington Football Team quarterback Joe Theismann and Prince George’s County Council chair Calvin Hawkins II.

Hogan placed a $50 wager on a Baltimore Ravens versus Washington Football Team in Super Bowl 56 in February in Los Angeles. Theismann wagered on a New England Patriots versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl, and Hawkins bet Washington would beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

“We are looking forward to having sports betting here in the state,” the governor told reporters. “That would be a terrific thing to have a Beltway Super Bowl between the Washington Football Team [and] the [Baltimore] Ravens.”

“I know it’s a long shot, but this $50 bet is going to turn into $20,000 and so I’m pretty excited. An all-Maryland Super Bowl out in LA,” Hogan said as he displayed his ticket.

“We couldn’t be happier,” added John Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGA), which regulates gaming in the state. “The excitement that is generated by these events … finally sports betting has come to the state of Maryland.”

Martin said he appreciated what his team had done to get sportsbook facilities up and running, as companies begin to offer “another generation of gaming product in the state.”

The state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) granted the first sports-betting licenses for five casinos last month. The licensees are among the 17 entities that were designated as eligible retail sports wagering locations in the state's sports-betting law.

Eventually, Maryland will open up its application process for up to 30 additional retail licenses and up to 60 licenses for mobile wagering.

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, operated by Caesars Entertainment, and Cordish Cos. Live! Casino & Hotel in partnership with FanDuel will open their sportsbooks on Friday, while Hollywood Casino in Perryville and Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin are expected to open sportsbook operations by the end of December.

Rocky Gap Casino in Cumberland, Maryland, has not filed an application with the commission, which reviews the applications before sending them to the SWARC for final approval.

On Wednesday, the SWARC approved retail sports-wagering licenses for two off-track betting facilities.

Although Maryland’s sports-betting law also authorizes digital wagering, that is not expected to begin until sometime in 2022. Mobile betting is already offered in neighboring District of Columbia and Virginia.

“I think they are going to try and push this as quickly as possible,” Hogan said of mobile sports betting. “Look, the commission jumped through a lot of hoops to make this happen with some delays that were created by the legislature, but we kept on pushing and got it done.”

Martin said that when it comes to sports betting, each “state works with what works for them.” He noted that Virginia did not have legal land-based casinos when sports betting was first launched, “so their option was online.”

“Mobile was at the top of the list for them,” Martin said. “Here it was reversed; we had the existing brick-and-mortar locations … it kind of flipped the script for us. While I appreciate that everyone wants to get into mobile space, that’s not the way the legislation was for us.”

Maryland voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting in November 2020, which was followed by lawmakers in Annapolis passing a law earlier this year laying out the framework for how the industry will operate.

“Hopefully, they’ll take it to the next level as soon as possible and get the online stuff up and running,” Hogan said.

Sports betting is expected to generate $20m to $25m annually in tax revenue once fully implemented.

The state's sports-betting law applies a tax rate of 15 percent to revenue.

“We passed a lock box initiative … all of the gaming revenue goes directly to our schools. That’s $4bn a year,” Hogan said. “This is just another amount of money that is going to help us improve the schools.”

“We are not encouraging people who don’t want to go out and bet on sports but the people who are, we want to keep the money in the state rather than spending it someplace else.”

Known as the DMV, Maryland now joins Virginia and the District of Columbia in launching sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in May 2018. Nearby states, including Delaware and West Virginia, have also launched wagering on games.

With Maryland being the latest to launch, Martin said he expected to see more advertising as more sportsbooks get up and running in the coming weeks and months.

“As a regulator we have to be aware and we have to monitor that,” Martin said. “But ultimately the decision on advertising is the local entity’s responsibility and their judgement call.”

“I think it goes without saying as all of these [casinos] begin to compete … for customers, we anticipate seeing a lot of advertising in the marketplace.”

Martin said that at this point regulators are hoping that operators can self-regulate when it comes to advertising.

“No one wants to put ourselves in a situation where another entity has to come in and legislate or regulate,” Martin said. “I would say we are cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to manage it from within and we really won’t need to be involved.”

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