Pilot Heidi Kennedy
Head of Casino Operations
Head of Casino Operations
It might be a while until we see top bookmakers in MD. Maryland voters made their voices heard in November of 2020, voting in favor of legislation legalizing sportsbooks in the state. The state has gone live with retail operations, however, nearly two years later mobile sports bets are still not allowed and there is currently no timeline for mobile wagers to begin.
The 2020 NFL season had just begun when Maryland voters decided to legalize sports betting in the state. Unfortunately for bettors who wish to utilize the convenience of online wagering, yet another NFL season is on the horizon without a legal option for them to do so. Nearly two years after Maryland residents voted in favor of legal sports betting legislation that allowed for online operations, the state has yet to open up for online wagers.
The Sports Wagering Application Review Committee (SWARC) is in charge of issuing licenses, and they have yet to approve any applications. The organization has defended their slow pace of action by pointing to a clause in the legislation requiring them to promote diversity in the legal sports betting industry. They claim to be waiting on the results of a study that they say will allow them to legally help women and minority-owned businesses. Critics point to evidence of how quickly they were able to approve retail licenses while fulfilling their duty to promote diversity and have accused the committee of dragging their feet.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wants to see online operations begin as soon as possible. Hogan wrote a letter to the SWARC urging the committee to intensify their work to begin issuing licenses to online operators. In addition to imploring the committee to act faster, he also called for more transparency in terms of a timeline as to when operations were expected to begin. Given the extended delay after the voters cast their ballots, he felt that the organization should be able to provide Maryland residents with a clear timeline and pathway to beginning online operations.
Hogan requested that the SWARC utilize the same processes used to award retail licenses to national sportsbook operators. He states that if major operators like FanDuel, Barstool Sports, BetMGM, and Caesars that already have a retail presence in the state were simply allowed to begin operating online, they would be able to take bets by the beginning of the NFL season and help to avoid Maryland missing out on another fall of tax revenue. He further stated that by issuing those licenses, the organization would be able to focus more on their diversity initiatives and increase their ability to assist smaller operators owned by minorities to enter the marketplace sooner.
As the next meeting of the SWARC takes place this week, Hogan made it clear in his letter than he had high expectations of what the committee could accomplish towards an online sports betting launch. His letter stated: “Maryland Lottery and Gaming has gone above and beyond to make this launch happen. I call on you to act with the same level of urgency and clear the way for mobile sports wagering. I, along with many other Marylanders, will be watching your next meeting with great interest.”
With such an extended delay following their vote, Maryland residents continue to miss out. In addition to the fact that they are unable to wager on sports events online, their state is also losing out on significant tax revenue. Nearby states Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey all allow online sports betting sites, and the potential is certainly there for millions of dollars in taxes that could have gone into Maryland’s coiffers to have flown over the borders. Given that 90% or more of the handle goes to online operators in states where both retail and online sports betting is legal, it is clear that Maryland is missing out on the lion’s share of the tax revenue they should be generating by now.
Sports bettors in Maryland will be watching closely for news about the next SWARC meeting, in hopes that the Governor’s letter will spur the committee into action or at least release a realistic timeline so residents will no longer be left waiting in the dark.