Maryland Delays Legal Sports Betting as Rules Yet to Be Determined

Marylanders were on the brink of being provided with legal sports betting services this year. When the debate was opened by lawmakers, they hoped that everything will be finalized by the time the NFL started in September. But, as it seems, the goal was a bit too ambitious because it’ll take a few more months before the state of Maryland can accept bets legally.

Maryland Gaming Regulator Moving Slowly

Maryland regulators need a bit more time to establish the rules of this industry. Sports betting was approved in Maryland after a successful referendum in 2020, which was the first step of the process. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., the man who signed the news law on sports betting in Maryland, talked to Maryland Matters on the situation and he stated that he hopes that the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) will resolve things as quickly as possible.

Hogan said that the agency informed him that it is impossible to sort the details by the start of the NFL season. He added that he put pressure on the MLGCA to finalize the details by the end of the football season – more precisely by the time the playoffs and the Super Bowl start – because that is when betting intensifies.

Companies Have Shown Interests In Opening Betting Shops

The number of companies that have shown interest in opening betting shops in Maryland is high, but there is no accurate data on how many of them will apply for a license. The fees for licenses vary as they can be between $50,000 and $2 million for land-based sportsbooks, while companies that want to launch online/mobile operations will have to pay $500,000 for a license.

Many of the operators who are targeting an entry into the Maryland market are already well-established players in this field, but there are also newcomers who are on a quest to make a name for themselves. Maryland lawmakers have made sure that minority-owned companies and women will have a level playing field. However, observers have noted that the entry barriers might be challenging and thus, discouraging for those who lack the experience.

Sports Wagering Application Review Commission Will Provide Licenses

The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission of Maryland (SWARC) is the regulatory body that will be in charge of providing licenses based on the law, while Maryland Lottery and Gaming will be in charge of conducting financial and criminal investigations.

People of Maryland should expect a public comment period later this month, as well. The public will be able to comment on 200+ pages of proposed regulations and the public comment period will last for 30 days. SWARC will also hold its first meeting in Annapolis today, Monday, August 16.

One small caution was presented by the agency, though. It states that it will take time for regulators to come up with the applicable safeguards and policies to make sure that bettors will be able to wager money with confidence at Maryland sportsbooks.

Moreover, the Sports Wagering Law requires the MLGCA to regulate sports betting the same as casino gaming. Both sportsbook and casino operators will go through a meticulous and thorough process that will determine whether they qualify for a license or not. The MLGCA will complete its process, while ensuring that applicants have the required financial stability and integrity to receive a license.

The Bill Approved 17 Wagering Locations in Maryland

This year, the bill approved a total of 17 locations: six casinos (Live Casino & Hotel, Ocean Downs, Horseshoe, MGM National Harbor, Rocky Gap, and Hollywood), three stadiums (Oriole Park, FedEx Field, and M&T Bank), Maryland State Fairgrounds, and Pimlico Race Track and Laurel Park Race Track.

Some local restaurants and bars were also added to the list. The agency’s website also included a statement that says that some entities that are named in the Sports Wagering Law may have their land-based operations running in the fall of this year. As for businesses that are not included in the Sports Wagering Law, the whole process (SWARC review and the investigation) will take 12-24 months, starting from May 2021. 

At the moment, around two dozen states allow sports betting and all Maryland neighbors are included on that list.

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