Maryland Regulator Preparing Mobile Sports-Betting Draft Applications, Rules

June 17, 2022
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One day after being publicly taken to task by the state’s governor for delays in the mobile sports-betting application process, Maryland gaming regulators say that draft applications and regulations could be released by the end of June.

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One day after being publicly taken to task by the state’s governor for delays in the mobile sports-betting application process, Maryland gaming regulators say that draft applications and regulations could be released by the end of June.

Tom Brandt, chairman of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), responded to the letter from Republican Governor Larry Hogan at the top of Thursday’s (June 16) regular meeting.

“I understand that many are frustrated that the process relating to the issuance of Maryland's mobile sports wagering licenses has been time consuming,” Brandt said.

“I also want everyone to know that this work and its support team have been operating as diligently and deliberately as we can under the Maryland sports wagering law that we're tasked to administer,” he said.

Brandt said that the law dictates a lengthy process because of its provisions requiring equity for minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as a study to determine if remedial measures are necessary to effectively level the playing field for those businesses.

Brandt said that a draft version of the application for licensure as a mobile sports-betting operator, as well as draft regulations, will be reviewed by members “early next week,” while the commission scheduled a June 29 special meeting to potentially take action on the two items.

“These steps are necessary for SWARC to set forth a sports wagering application evaluation process that is legally sound and, to the maximum extent permissible by law, allow SWARC to seek to achieve racial, ethnic and gender diversity when awarding the sports wagering licenses,” Brandt said.

“Based on what we know today, I expect SWARC applications for mobile sports wagering and additional Class B [retail sportsbook] licenses to be published this summer, and for SWARC to begin accepting applications shortly thereafter.”

Despite Thursday’s movement, no timeline was given for when online betting could be expected to ultimately begin.

Hogan’s letter called for wagering to launch in time for the upcoming National Football League (NFL) season.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCC) also announced on Thursday that it will open its eLicensing platform to interested operators starting on Friday (June 17), to allow operators to begin the process of background investigations.

The MLGCC investigation is separate from the SWARC process, but still a necessary component to obtain a license.

“The MLGCC’s investigations and the SWARC’s application process may not have the same starting point, but it’s always been the plan for them to unfold on parallel tracks,” John Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said in a statement.

“Some investigations could take several months, so now is a great opportunity for all potential applicants to get the ball rolling,” Martin said.

The state legalized sports betting through a voter referendum in November 2020 and subsequent enabling legislation that was enacted in May 2021 but has been slow to progress as some key legislators have pushed for a uniform start date, or close to it, that would put smaller minority-owned businesses on the same timeline as major sports-betting brands.

In his letter, Hogan called for the commission to approve applications on a rolling basis rather than adhere to a uniform start date, and to give priority to the 17 named entities in the law that are permitted to conduct retail betting at casinos, sports stadiums and other venues.

“The mobile sports wagering marketplace is extremely capital-intensive and highly competitive (high-risk, low-margin) and dominated by only a few companies,” Hogan wrote. “Setting up an arbitrary points system or setting unachievable minority equity ownership goals will likely only hurt those entities you are trying to help.”

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