Two More Maryland Sportsbooks Approved, But Licensing Still an Issue

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Two more gaming properties in Maryland have been notified that they meet the requirements to host a sportsbook, but when they’ll receive their licenses is still up in the air. Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs join Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, MGM National Harbor and Live! Casino and Hotel on a list of approved locations that are still waiting for the licenses that should have started to be distributed this month. It now looks like the earliest date for legal sports betting to start won’t be until November 18, at the earliest.

Maryland Making Slow Progress with Sports Betting

According to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA), Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs can launch sportsbooks in accordance with the pre-eligibility clause included in the state’s recent sports betting legislation. They join the other three, who were confirmed by the MLGCA two weeks ago. Penn National Gaming owns Hollywood Casino, which means that property will have a Barstool sportsbook, and Ocean Downs will launch a TwinSpires book through its partnership with Churchill Downs.

The five gaming properties (Ocean Downs, in addition to a casino, operates a horse racetrack) were automatically eligible to launch sports betting when Maryland approved new gaming laws earlier this year; however, they still had to show that they met certain requirements and criteria to be considered for a license. That review is conducted by the MLGCA, with the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) then confirming the recommendations. After that, the applications are sent back to the MLGCA for the licenses to be issued.

SWARC Hindering Progress

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, MGM National Harbor and Live! Casino and Hotel were at the ready, hands on the switches, to turn on their sportsbooks last week. It had been expected that the SWARC would meet on October 14, at which time the recommendations would be officially approved. However, at the last minute and without explanation, the commission decided the meeting needed to be postponed. It didn’t put a rescheduled meeting on its calendar, which means it could be another month before the approvals are given. The SWARC, comprised of seven members appointed by the state government, doesn’t have a set meeting on its agenda until November 18.

The MLGCA makes it clear, albeit very subtly, that the delays are not a result of its actions. The director of the agency, John Martin, said in a press release, “We’ve approved five facilities and our work is ongoing. We’ll continue sending applications to the SWARC so that it can make awards and sports wagering can launch by late fall. It’s what the public wants and expects, and we’re doing everything we can to deliver it.”

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