Online Sports Betting in Maryland May Not Launch Until Super Bowl

There are currently six brick-and-mortar gaming facilities at which Maryland residents can make sports bets, but mobile wagering is still a ways off.

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2022 12:26 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Mark Andrews Baltimore Ravens NFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The legal launch of online sports betting in Maryland may not happen until somewhere around Super Bowl LVII in 2023 — and that’s if everything goes according to plan.

Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) met Wednesday and discussed a proposed timeline for the ongoing rollout of legal sports betting in the state. 

There are currently six brick-and-mortar gaming facilities where Maryland residents can make sports bets. But, according to Jim Nielsen, deputy director and chief operating officer of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, online sportsbooks may not start legally taking bets until the Big Game in February of 2023. 

Nielsen noted there are still several things that have to happen before mobile wagering can begin, including a 45-day window to apply for a license when applications are finally issued, which hasn't happened yet. SWARC will also need to review the applications that are filed, which Nielsen said they are estimating will take at least 45 days.

SWARC must find it is in the public interest to award a license to an applicant while Maryland Lottery and Gaming must find the applicant is qualified for that permit. If and when those boxes are checked, SWARC can then award a license and the applicant can have its internal controls and policies inspected and conduct a controlled demonstration of its sports-betting operations. 

Then, and only then, will a license be issued and the applicant permitted to take bets from the broader public.

“Right now, we can't determine a specific timeline to complete these steps,” Nielsen told SWARC members. “Because as we discussed before, there are many things that we don't know. We don't know when the SWARC application will actually be issued, based upon the other gating factors. But staff believe that if the applications can be issued within the next week or two, it's possible that Marylanders could be able to bet on the Super Bowl on a mobile platform.”

Day by day, step by step

Even then, though, there could be further delays caused, such as if there is a massive number of applications or very complex organizations filing for permits, Nielsen added.

There are still a few steps remaining for regulators before the applications can even be released, including a regulation review by a legislative committee and the completion of a sports-betting industry analysis. SWARC Chairman Tom Brandt said Wednesday that the commission is hopeful the two items can be completed soon. 

“And then once these are completed, our commission's intention is to promptly release the applications and open the process,” Brandt added.

Nevertheless, while regulators may be making plans and sketching out a rough timeline, the details of those plans and that schedule will likely leave many bettors in Maryland disappointed, as a majority of voters in the state approved of sports betting way back in 2020 via a ballot measure. In comparison, in Louisiana, a similar initiative was passed by voters in most of the state in 2020, and both retail and online sports betting have already begun there.

However, the legal sports betting bill passed by Maryland lawmakers is different than those of other states, as it aims to ensure the participation of small, minority, and women-owned businesses in the industry. The same law requires SWARC to evaluate a study of the industry to determine if there is a need for "remedial measures" to assist minorities and women.

Waiting for that study is now a source of delay for regulators. Frustration about the gradual process has led to frustration in the state as well, with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan publicly pressuring the SWARC to take steps to ensure mobile sports betting launches in time for the National Football League’s regular season.

Hogan wrote a letter to SWARC members in June saying the commission has "allowed the process to stagnate and become mired in overly bureaucratic procedures," which have caused delays. This, he added, is the "byproduct of an overly-complex piece of legislation that was skewed to appease special interest groups and organizations."

The SWARC has taken some recent steps to move the process along, approving proposed regulations and draft applications for sports-betting licenses. Under Maryland's sports-betting law, as many as 47 licenses for retail sportsbooks (17 of which are designated for casinos, off-track betting facilities, professional sports venues, and race tracks) and 60 permits for mobile operations can be issued. 

The latest remarks by regulators suggest there will not be a swift launch of online wagering. In the meantime, bettors in the state will have to make do with the six retail locations that are authorized to take bets

“When I accepted this appointment, I was told that SWARC’s mission would be legally challenging and complex,” Brandt said on Wednesday. “And so it has been.” 

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