It’s been more than six months since Gov. Larry Hogan cast the first legal retail sports wagers in Maryland, and the state is still awaiting the launch of mobile Maryland sports betting. And nobody is growing more impatient over the delay than the governor himself.
|🐌||Gov. Hogan growing impatient over slow progress of Maryland sports betting|
|😠||Blistering letter sent to state’s SWARC to demand progress ahead of NFL season|
|🏈||Launch date in 2022 remains unlikely, although still possible|
Hogan this week sent a blistering letter to the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission and its chairman, Thomas Brandt, demanding immediate action to help Maryland get mobile sports betting rolled out before the start of the coming NFL season on Sept. 8. The complexities of Maryland’s law seems to be the barrier to opening Maryland sports betting beyond the retail wagers currently offered at five casinos in the state.
“Marylanders have grown frustrated waiting for mobile sports wagering as they have watched it become available in state after state across the country, including our neighboring jurisdictions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. I share in their frustration,” Hogan wrote to SWARC.
“I realize that this ongoing delay is the byproduct of an overly-complex piece of legislation that was skewed to appease special interest groups and organizations. The rest of the holdup lies with bureaucratic hurdles and legal obstacles placed by the Office of the Attorney General. While much of the work is ostensibly ‘in progress,’ SWARC has still not defined a clear pathway or timeline for mobile sports wagering implementation — it is simply inexcusable for that to be the case more than a year after the bill was signed into law.”
Maryland sports betting law is ‘particularly complex’
Hogan signed Maryland’s sports betting bill into law on May 18, 2021, and on Dec. 9 of that year the governor kicked off retail betting by placing a pair of ceremonial first wagers—on the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC, and Washington’s NFL team to win the NFC—at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill. The following day, Hogan was at Caesars Sportsbook at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore to kick off sports betting there, along with celebrities like former Ravens Torrey Smith and Adalius Thomas, and former NBA player Muggsy Bogues, a Baltimore native.
That same day the sportsbook at Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover opened, followed on Dec. 17 by the launch of TwinSpires’ retail sportsbook at Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin. Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sportsbook opened at Hollywood Casino in Perryville on Dec. 23, bringing the total number of retail sportsbooks in Maryland to five.
Mobile wagering, though, has not followed as readily. Since Maryland’s law includes a class of mobile license reserved for bars, restaurants and entities like bowling alleys and golf courses, SWARC has to consider the involvement of women- and minority-owned businesses in its licensing procedures, delaying the formation of mobile regulations. The 89 pages of draft regulations accompanying the law are “lengthy, confusing and requiring patience,” Brandt said in a June 16 SWARC meeting, according to WTOP radio.
“I understand that many are frustrated,” Brandt added. “Maryland’s law is particularly complex, because unlike any other jurisdiction there is a significant, deliberate effort to enable small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses to have equity positions and to participate in the growth of the new sports wagering industry.”
Mobile applications coming this summer?
In his letter, Hogan urged SWARC to take several steps to advance the launch of mobile sports betting in Maryland: Set a firm timeline, release drafts of applications and accompanying regulations, approve mobile applications on a first-come, first served basis, and take the same expedited approach that got retail sports betting off the ground.
“Mobile sports wagering will be dominant in Maryland, just as it is in other states, with estimates that 80 to 90% of all wagers will be made via mobile devices,” Hogan wrote. “The ongoing delay is preventing Maryland from fully and properly tapping into this market.”
Brandt, according to WTOP, said drafts of preliminary regulations and applications will be delivered to commission members next week. But there are multiple agencies involved in the process, including the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which has to give its own stamp of approval. Brandt said he expected SWARC to publish applications this summer, and begin accepting applications “shortly thereafter”.
Yet he gave no timeline and made no guarantees of a mobile launch prior to NFL betting season—none of which will sit well with a governor growing more impatient by the day. “Our state and citizens deserve clear and definitive action from SWARC, and a legal, transparent framework to place mobile bets,” Hogan wrote, “not endless bureaucratic roadblocks that continue to hold back progress.”