At least on the state gambling regulators’ side of the approval process for getting Maryland sports betting up and running in the state, forward movement continues.
As the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) experiences slow going in approving operators for retail sports betting, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission on Thursday approved the sports wagering operator partners of five casinos that have already been deemed qualified to run sportsbooks by Lottery and Gaming.
But it looks like the recent delays will push back the start of retail sports betting until early 2022.
The recommendations on the five casinos were passed on to the SWARC in October but that commission, tasked with making sure that the goals of the sports gambling legislation are met to encourage participation by minority- and women-owned businesses, has yet to approve any of the five casinos. The SWARC met earlier this week on Wednesday but the only public action it took was to request more ownership information from the casino applicants.
Meanwhile, the gaming regulators keep forging ahead and approved the casinos sports gambling partners. All the partners are already operating in other jurisdictions. Those partners and the associated Maryland casinos are:
- Barstool Sports, partner of Hollywood Casino in Perryville
- Caesars Sportsbook, partner of Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore
- FanDuel Sportsbook, partner of Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover
- BetMGM, partner of MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill
- TwinSpires, partner of Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin
Maybe in Time for NFL Playoffs?
There has been growing tension between Gov. Larry Hogan and the nine-member SWARC — whose members (three each) were appointed by the speaker of the House of Delegates, the president of the state Senate, and Hogan — over the slow pace of the SWARC.
“We’re obviously disappointed by the lack of progress in yesterday’s SWARC meeting, but we’re pleased that we’ve moved forward in other areas,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said in the release on Thursday. “The delay is likely to push sports wagering back until after the New Year. At this point, we are hoping to make the NFL playoffs in January and the Super Bowl in February.“In the meantime, there are numerous steps that don’t involve the SWARC, and we are working closely with each facility to complete those tasks,” Martin added. “We’re also continuing investigations of additional facility applicants so we can forward more of them to the SWARC. We are forging ahead in spite of the delays.”
Online sports gambling, which is also part of the Maryland gambling law, isn’t expected to happen until later next year.
Commission Next Meets on Nov. 18
Getting back to retail sports wagering, the SWARC’s timeline now is to receive the supplemental information regarding ownership that it asked for from the five casinos applicants, review that information, and meet again at 8 a.m. on Nov. 18.
“We’re making progress on as much of this as we can now, but we’ll still need time to work through a number of procedures with each facility, even after the licenses are awarded — it could take up to 30-45 days,” Martin said. “If the SWARC awards the licenses on Nov. 18 and all goes well, that would mean a launch date somewhere around the first of the year.”
Work is in progress at the five facilities, Lottery and Gaming reported in a news release. At least one casino, Live! in Hanover, already has completed a multi-million dollar sports bar that will convert to an elaborate sportsbook as soon as it gets the green light.
Just some of the nuts-and-bolts items that Lottery and Gaming has to review and approve when inspecting the sportsbooks are internal control procedures, security and surveillance systems and procedures, technology and back-office systems, and responsible gaming plans. Plus, each facility must complete a controlled demonstration of its sports wagering operations under the observation of Lottery and Gaming staff. But the SWARC must first award licenses for the facilities to conduct those controlled demonstrations.
When all those boxes are checked, Lottery and Gaming may issue licenses for sports wagering.