Maryland Sports Betting Could Launch By 'Late Fall' 2021

September 23, 2021
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Maryland’s top gaming regulator said his agency hopes to have the state’s first legal sports bets placed before the end of the year.

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Maryland’s top gaming regulator said his agency hopes to have the state’s first legal sports bets placed before the end of the year.

Two key meetings were held this week to discuss the state’s sports-betting rollout, including a meeting of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission on Tuesday, and then a meeting Wednesday of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to hear public comment on proposed regulations.

John A. Martin, director of the state's lottery and gaming control agency, said Tuesday that final regulations are set to be approved around the beginning of November, following a 30-day public comment period that ends on September 27.

Draft regulations were approved by the commission in July.

Last week, the agency also launched its online licensing portal for up to 17 specific applicants that are eligible per state law for land-based sports-betting licenses.

Although Maryland's legislation provides for more than 100 licensing opportunities, including 60 standalone online wagering licenses, the first stage of licensing will include Class “A” designated gaming entities, including the state’s six casinos, three professional sports stadiums, as well as a state racetrack license.

In addition, seven designated locations will be eligible for Class “B" licenses, including four off-track betting locations, two commercial bingo facilities, and the Maryland State Fair.

“Our team of people are working with the named applicants who have begun the process to do the required investigation and background checks so we can submit those applications back to SWARC for awarding the licenses and continue building on the positive momentum we have to get sports betting operational by late fall,” Martin said.

While written comments will continue to be submitted through Monday, several interested parties took part in the public comment session, including several groups who insisted on specific timing for the state’s rollout.

Gwen McCall, representing Bet On Maryland, which she described as a potential minority equity partner in a sports-betting operation, pushed for a simultaneous launch for online wagering rather than a staggered one whereby casinos and other larger existing gaming interests would launch sooner than smaller minority-owned operations.

“If you give the brick-and-mortar facilities the opportunity to apply for the online licenses and move forward before all of the other online licenses, that deters the larger operators from partnering with minorities because there’s no longer an incentive to do that,” McCall said.

Another timing issue was raised by Emmanuel Bailey, CEO of Veterans Service Corp and DC09, the joint venture that administrates the DC Lottery through a partnership with Intralot.

Bailey said that language in the regulations would allow companies to submit their minority participation plan six months after submitting their applications, rather than at the initial stage.

“I don’t think that speaks to the spirit and the goals of the legislature,” Bailey said.

The proposed regulations also contain official data language that would be broader than the mandates of other U.S. jurisdictions such as Tennessee, Virginia and Arizona.

The draft Maryland regulations would require operators to use official league data to settle any wager upon request from a sports governing body, whereas most jurisdictions only require operators to use official data to settle in-play or proposition wagers.

The provision is notable because existing case law has typically found that the results of sporting events are information in the public domain, which is why sports leagues have traditionally recommended language that would limit the mandate to the so-called “tier two” wagers.

Marquest Meeks, senior counsel to the commissioner for Major League Baseball, said Wednesday that MLB and fellow leagues including the National Basketball Association, PGA Tour and the NFL all backed the inclusion of the official data mandate, although he did not speak to the broader requirements of the mandate in Maryland.

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