The launch of online sports betting in Maryland could happen before the end of 2022 after regulators decided to award licenses on a rolling basis, rather than waiting for a full complement of candidates or a universal start date.
Members of the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission heard on Thursday that they could make online sports betting available sooner in the state if they did so.
Up to 60 mobile betting licenses are up for grabs in Maryland, but if regulators receive fewer than 60 applications for those permits by the October 21 deadline for applications, SWARC could just go ahead and start awarding some to qualified applicants, commission members were told.
“Since we as SWARC do the award, then it has to go back to [Maryland Lottery and Gaming] for the issuance of licenses, which requires a substantial amount of work, I would suggest that it makes most sense to do the awarding on a rolling basis,” commission member Randy Marriner said during Thursday’s meeting.
Keep rollin', rollin', rollin', rollin' (what?)
SWARC members approved a motion to that end on Thursday, meaning the commission will potentially award permits for online wagering as applications and recommendations for licensing are presented to the group.
Applications to SWARC are due by October 21. But now, if the number of mobile sports betting applications falls short of 60 on that date, the commission could start giving operators a key approval in a month or two with the possible awarding of licenses.
The decision could ensure the launch of online sports betting in Maryland before the end of 2022, to the relief of bettors and regulators. Regulatory staffers are apparently against a universal start date for online sports betting as well, due to concerns an applicant could hold up the process for everyone else.
"I'm still extremely optimistic that we will be having mobile wagering somewhere in the state of Maryland before the calendar year is out," Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said Thursday during a meeting of his agency.
Maryland’s sports-betting law allows for up to 47 licenses for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in the state (30 of which will be subject to a competitive application process) as well as 60 for online sports betting sites and apps. However, while retail wagering has been happening since last December, the launch date for mobile betting — which typically accounts for the bulk of handle in states where it is available — has been a moving target for regulators.
The gradual rollout of online sports betting in Maryland has grated on bettors and even the state’s governor, who has pushed regulators to get mobile wagering up and running in time for the National Football League season.
Yet Thursday’s news could speed up the process that will bring legal online sports betting to Maryland, which already has seven brick-and-mortar sportsbooks open.
SWARC opened its 45-day application window for mobile sports betting licenses back on September 6. According to a press release, when the window closes on October 21, the commission may need as many as 45 additional days to review applications. That's because gaming regulators must conduct background investigations to ensure applicants are qualified, which is a requirement for licensure.
SWARC members also heard on Thursday that its proposed regulations are subject to a public-comment period until this coming Monday. However, a legislative committee has already approved the commission's request for emergency adoption of the regulations, which are now in effect until March.
“Maryland Lottery and Gaming has been hard at work on background investigations,” Martin said in the September 6 release. “A number of businesses that are planning to apply for mobile licenses have already submitted information to get their investigations started, and our Licensing staff will continue guiding them through the qualification procedures. We’re focused on expediting our part of the process so mobile betting can start as soon as possible.”