Three casinos in Maryland that are often viewed as big competitors on the market joined forces on Monday with the goal of putting pressure on the state to act on the sports betting licenses that were promised.
MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe Baltimore and Live! Casino want to establish their sportsbook operations while the NFL season is ongoing. The reason why is that football is the most popular sport to bet on and the most lucrative.
All Three Casinos Were Eligible for a License
All of the three aforementioned casinos applied for a license with the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission and they were eligible under a state law’s alternative provision. However, the establishments need one additional approval – a sign-off from the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) in order to start accepting bets.
For reasons that remain unknown, SWARC hasn’t approved any of the applications, even though they were received in October.
A joint letter underlines the fact that SWARC is failing to follow the legislature’s process with regard to 17 applications from land-based wagering facilities, including MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe and Live! Casino.
In the letter, the casinos stated that although the bill’s structure was complex, it explicitly mandated that the 17 establishments will be provided with a Class A sports betting license if they pass Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission’s scrutiny.
The legal language approved by the General Assembly is also cited in the letter. It says that sports wagering licenses will be reviewed by the SWARC and will hand out licenses to all facilities that meet the requirements.
The Panel Will Meet Again Today to Possibly Discuss the Licenses
Even though the SWARC met on November 3, the panel didn’t take any action on the five applications. A majority of the 2-and-a-half meeting was spent behind closed doors with attorney general office advisors.
However, the SWARC will have another meeting today (Thursday) and casinos are now urging for the applications’ speedy consideration. They are also urging for handing out licenses.
Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. criticized SWARC’s failed mission of approving sports betting licenses earlier this month. He stated that this is a problem and the chances of the panel catching a lawsuit by parties whose licenses were approved by Maryland’s commission are high.
The General Assembly appointed four members of the SWARC and three of them were pointed directly by Gov. Hogan. Bill Ferguson (Senate President, D-Baltimore City) and Adrienne A. Jones (House Speaker, D-Baltimore County) supported the panel via statements.
Ferguson said that the SWARC is an independent entity that can issue sports betting licenses. He fully trusts the independent commissioners’ ability, including those that were appointed by the Governor, to take all factors into consideration and use their judgement to offer a process of fair license issuing.
Lawmakers have repeatedly stated that they want to make sure that female and black-owned businesses aren’t cut off the new sports wagering industry. They fear that bigger players such as DraftKings, FanDuel, major racetracks and casinos will be provided with a head start, thus leaving homegrown industries behind and in the process of struggling to keep up.
Creating a system through which minority business enterprises are elevated without coming across lawsuits from other companies is a challenge, and the case is the same with medical marijuana.
Casinos are suggesting that the commission is holding back on their applications as it is misreading the statute. In the letter, they wrote that there’s no formal answer or a reason to justify the delays. Media outlets have suggested to them that they want to conduct a “second disparity study” with the goal of checking whether if there is an interest in remedial measures to be implemented so that women and minorities in the sports betting industry can be supported.
They also added that it is clear that the interest of the state is in awarding on-site licenses to entities that are seeking mobile licenses as well as entities that are not named in the bill. To put it in another perspective, the casinos respect the authority of the SWARC to come up with a second disparity study and to evaluate attendants for Class B licenses, but that authority is not a solid ground through which it can delay the process of issuing Class A licenses.
An email was sent to Thomas Brandt Jr., who was appointed by Hogan on Monday, in which he was asked for a comment, but there was no reply.
Owners of casino establishments have stated that they’ve recruited hundreds of Maryland residents to work in the sports betting areas, but they are yet to enjoy their first day at the office as they still don’t have an official start date. A stable job will provide them and their families with health benefits, which is extremely important during the pandemic.