Maryland Sports Betting Effort to Authorize Mobile Books Continues at Turtle’s Pace

Maryland sports betting began at the state’s land-based casinos in December. Five of the state’s six commercial gaming properties are now operating brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

Maryland sports betting mobile Baltimore Ravens
Maryland sports betting mobile Baltimore Ravens
Then-Horseshoe Casino Baltimore GM Erin Chamberlin and Baltimore Ravens Senior VP Kevin Rochlitz celebrate the Caesars Entertainment casino being named an official partner of the NFL team in 2018. Horseshoe and Maryland’s other casinos hope to have their mobile sportsbooks up and running in time for the 2022 NFL season. (Image: Baltimore Ravens)

The gaming expansion will blossom, however, once Maryland allows online wagering to commence. But the state is dragging its feet in awarding mobile sports betting licenses.

During the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission’s (SWARC) meeting this week, no update was provided to generate optimism that such license issuances are coming anytime soon.

Maryland lawmakers are seeking to achieve “social equity” through their sports betting authorization. The state politicians mandated that sports betting opportunities go not only to the six casinos but also to minority-owned small businesses.

Maryland’s sports betting law allows for betting on professional and collegiate sports, including state-based colleges such as the Maryland Terrapins.

Online Delay

To assure that the state issues the available mobile sportsbook licenses in an equitable manner, SWARC has commissioned a “disparity analysis.” The state gaming unit is awaiting the study’s findings before moving forward with determining which applicants are most qualified and deserving of the online sportsbook rights.

While casinos, racetracks, and professional sports stadiums must pay $3 million to the state for their online sports betting rights — which is in addition to the $500,000 each paid for their brick-and-mortar sportsbook permits — small businesses with fewer than 25 employees and $3 million in annual sales will be able to buy-in for just $50,000. Such businesses — sports bars and convenience stores, for example — would then need to partner with third-party sportsbook firms like BetMGM.

The third-party sportsbook operators would in turn pay a heftier $500,000 fee for their small business partnerships. Along with running online books, the arrangements would additionally allow for the small businesses to incorporate sports betting kiosks into their physical establishments.

SWARC officials said there is no update as to the progress of the “disparity analysis.” SWARC won’t meet again until May 18.

Casinos Frustrated

Maryland gaming officials are holding off on issuing mobile licenses for the casinos, racetracks, and professional stadiums so they don’t have a competitive advantage in obtaining market share prior to the small businesses beginning their online sportsbook operations. There was a similar delay in the casinos receiving their retail sportsbook permits.

SWARC finally handed the casinos that applied for in-person sports betting their licenses in December. The sports betting commission said the delay was due to the state’s sports gambling bill requiring that licenses be issued to businesses that meet “certain minority business participation goals.”

The casinos countered that they already meet such inclusion requirements, and have been previously subjected to “rigorous scrutiny” from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

The casinos will likely raise their voices again if SWARC doesn’t act on mobile sports betting operations in time for the NFL season. The Baltimore Ravens are the most popular sports team in the state — and the team is expected to generate the most betting action in Maryland.

The 2022 NFL season is set to kick off on Thursday, September 8. The official schedule will be released after the 2022 NFL Draft that runs April 28-30 on the Las Vegas Strip.

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