Maryland regulators said it is still possible online sports betting could begin prior to the NFL's Super Bowl game in February 2023, the first hint of an actual launch date coming out of the state.
During a meeting Wednesday (August 17), Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) approved the applications for operators to submit to obtain one of up to 60 mobile-only licenses.
The commission also approved a 45-day window for applications to be submitted, effective from when the application is officially released by the regulator, the date of which still remains to be determined.
“Staff believe that if the applications can be issued within the next week or two, it's possible that Marylanders could be able to bet on the Super Bowl on a mobile platform,” said Jim Nielsen, chief operating officer of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
That timeline, however, remains far from a firm one.
“Even after the applications are released, the timeline will be impacted by factors outside of our control, mainly the number of applications received and the complexity of the organizations applying,” Nielsen said.
That complexity could be particularly significant, with a host of operators expected to step forward with no prior gaming industry experience.
In addition, regulators have faced pressure from each side of the issue as to whether Maryland should have a set go-live date or should approve applications on a rolling basis and allow approved operators to launch when ready.
The latter, critics have argued, would disadvantage smaller operators by permitting larger companies to gain a foothold in the state before the smaller operators can even get off the ground, a notable issue given the state’s goal of ensuring increased minority participation in the sports-betting market.
To receive a license and go live, operators must first be qualified by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, be approved for a license by SWARC, and then receive approval from Maryland Lottery and Gaming regarding internal controls and conduct demonstrations.
“Our feeling is that if we wait for all the applicants to be qualified, you're building in a pretty significant delay, because some of these applicants, as we said before, have never been through a licensing process, they really are going to struggle with getting all their documentation submitted, and that will delay the review from Lottery and Gaming to qualify them,” Nielsen said.
No decision was made on that issue Wednesday, but SWARC members acknowledged that it is something they are going to have to decide on in the near future.
“This is an important heads-up, because we're going to have to call the ball ideally sooner rather than later on that aspect of what we're doing,” said Thomas Brandt, chair of the commission.
Buckeye State Betting Deadline
Meanwhile, another closely watched sports-betting state that is working towards an early 2023 launch date is continuing along with its own process following the passage of a key deadline Monday (August 15).
License applications closed Monday for operators looking to launch in Ohio on the universal start date of January 1, the latest window being for operators utilizing the second skin of an authorized land-based entity.
Four operators submitted applications to utilize a second skin, including MaximBet, Prophet Exchange, BetRivers and Betway.
“Businesses can still submit their applications after the deadline, it just doesn’t guarantee them consideration in time to launch for the universal start date,” said Matt Schuler, director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
Monday was also the application deadline for so-called “Type C” gaming hosts, which includes retail establishments that can offer wagering kiosks or clerk-operated terminals.
Type C gaming hosts are licensed by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) but are recommended by the Ohio Lottery and will operate under rules promulgated by the state lottery commission.
Schuler said that although the lottery has recommended 1,250 locations, the OCCC only received 652 applications prior to Monday’s deadline.
On Wednesday (August 17), the OCCC approved three-year licenses for about 200 small businesses, beginning January 1, 2023. Those businesses still have to submit compliance materials, including responsible gaming plans, to gaming regulators by November to launch at the start of next year.
“Even though the window has closed, we are strongly encouraging all remaining approved locations by the lottery to submit their license applications to us, and we will continue to process them as quickly as possible,” Schuler said.
He added that the requirements to be licensed as a Type C host, which offer limited types of betting, are far narrower than the full investigations required for the more comprehensive Ohio sports wagering licenses.