Maryland’s SWARC Delays Official Sports Betting Launch

Maryland will most likely not have operational sports betting by the end of the year after the latest decision by the state’s Sports Wagering Applicant Review Commission (SWARC) to not award sports betting licenses is further delaying the launch.

Requesting Further Ownership Information

The 9-member commission that was created by the state legislature as an independent body met Wednesday to discuss the applications that have already been approved by the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, initially Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, MGM National Harbor and Live! Casino and Hotel, and later on Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs Casino, but did not deliver the goods.

Much to the discontent of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan who had urged the SWARC to do its job and award the approved casino-sportsbook partnerships with operating licenses, the commission said it would need the applicants to submit supplemental ownership information before it makes the final decision.

The SWARC is set to meet again on November 18 but the delay is the second, following a postponement of SWARC’s meeting scheduled for October 14, and Gov. Hogan vented his frustration at the commission members, stating they subdued to outside pressure.

“It appears as if the legislature and the staff of the legislature and even the attorney for the legislature are pressuring that commission to delay things as long as possible, until they can do all of the other, brand-new licenses where companies haven’t even yet been formed…”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Who is Exerting Pressure on SWARC?

The most inclusive in terms of women- and minority-owned businesses sports betting legal framework in the US has provisions for up to 60 sports betting licenses, of which 17 were allocated for all existing casinos and horse racetracks that were automatically eligible for licenses.

It is hard to believe Gov. Hogan is referring only to the bunch of smaller operators and vendors that will apply for a license in the future as they are probably unable to exert such pressure on an independent body. And besides, a quick look at the sports betting operators involved with the 5 casinos approved for a license – Barstool, Caesars, FanDuel, BetMGM, and TwinSpires – reveals one big sportsbook player is missing.

Boston-based DraftKings has yet to announce a retail sportsbook location in Maryland, with options varying from the M&T Bank Stadium of the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL franchise DraftKings became an Official Sports Betting and Official Daily Fantasy Sports Partner, its entertainment district, or one of the automatically eligible venues that are yet to link with a sports betting operator.

It is not clear whether the SWARC will issue licenses on its November 18 meeting but one thing is certain: Marylanders will not be able to place a legal sports bet by the end of the year.

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