The Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency published hundreds of pages of public comments regarding sports betting in Maryland on Thursday. Allowing public comment is another step in the deliberate march to finally launching sports betting in Maryland.
In November 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved expanding Maryland gambling in a referendum. Then, during the General Assembly’s 2021 session, a sports gambling law was crafted and passed. Gov. Larry Hogan signed it. The MLGCA then promulgated regulations in July, and the public had a month to comment on the regulations, both in person on Sept. 22 and in writing from Aug. 27-Sept. 27.
The MLGCA staff will consider the comments and recommendations. Any amendments to the regulations that are recommended by staff will be presented for the regulatory body’s approval at its next regular monthly meeting at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21.
The written comments were from a variety of parties and stakeholders, from gambling operators to pro sports leagues to those advocating on behalf of problem gamblers to some folks who simply identified themselves as sports gamblers. Dozens of parties took advantage of the opportunity to air their views with the total comments running for hundreds of pages.
FanDuel Weighs In
Some of the lengthier comments came from sports gambling operators. FanDuel’s letter, for instance, went on for 44 pages. Among the company’s concerns was the state reining in the amount of free or promotional play the operators could offer after a certain amount of time. Currently, regulations would “limit the amount of free promotional play a sports wagering licensee may issue after their first year of operation to no more than 20% of the total sports wagering proceeds that the licensee generated in the prior year,” FanDuel pointed out.
FanDuel argued that “free promotional play holds (a vital role) in converting sports bettors from the illegal, offshore sports wagering market to (a) legal, regulated market.”
On a different topic, FanDuel said that the Maryland regulations’ insistence on using league data to settle wagers “go far beyond the provisions found in any other jurisdiction in the United States.”
Meanwhile, the leagues themselves weighed in — the NFL, the PGA Tour, MLB, the NBA — sometimes discussing game integrity issues by urging timely reporting of suspected wrong-doing to the affected league, and remarking on the use of official league data. Not surprisingly, they’re in favor of it.
“We wanted to emphasize our support for (the regulation) which allows governing entities to request that sports wagering licensees use official league data to settle wagers (so long as the relevant entity can provide that data on commercially reasonable terms),” MLB wrote. “The use of official league data is critical in a modern sports betting marketplace, where in-game betting and micro-betting continue to rise in popularity.”
Other Topics: Funding Bets, Problem Gambling
Comments ranged widely over the vast landscape of sports wagering and the regulations that will govern it: Venture capital funding; whether underage persons can be allowed in any gaming venue where it may be unavoidable (say, a dining area); settling disputes between customers and operators; circumstances for reporting terms and conditions of promotions to the state; funding wagers from credit cards and withdrawing funds back to credit cards, self-exclusion mechanisms for those wrestling with problem gambling.
It remains to be seen whether the state regulatory agency’s staff makes any recommendations to the MLGCA to amend the current regulations and whether the agency then votes to do so. In the meantime, applicants for retail sports betting licenses are submitting their paperwork to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission and to Maryland Lottery & Gaming with the applicants hoping they can start taking bets before the clock runs out on the current NFL season.
To be clear, retail sportsbooks will be opening first in Maryland with mobile betting coming later. Online sports wagering is not expected to launch in Maryland until sometime next year.