Maryland sports gambling has hit a pothole in its development as licenses are being delayed statewide.
Only five of the 17 establishments guaranteed licenses under state law are accepting bets. Several Maryland sports betting retailers have not even applied for licenses yet, per state regulators.
MD Delays Pile Up
Five of the 17 businesses have not submitted any documents as of yet, said Jim Nielsen of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. The MLGCA and Sports Wagering Application Review Commission have not reviewed documents submitted by four other applicants.
SWARC member and PNC regional manager, Laura Gamble, has initiated outreach to the five businesses yet to submit applications. The SWARC will also be contacting women and minority-owned businesses to see if they need help submitting applications.
Nielsen said that the MLGCA has also contacted business owners as part of standard operating procedures.
“Some of them are still trying to decide if they want to (acquire licenses),” Nielsen told the SWARC.
Problems Acquiring Maryland Licenses
The MLGCA’s job is to review applications for gambling licenses and investigate the establishments on the applications. It may only award licenses after the SWARC completes an independent investigation and signs off.
State licenses may be awarded to casinos, race tracks, professional sports stadiums, off-track betting venues, and special bingo halls. Five large casinos have already acquired licenses and accumulated a $49 million handle since opening in December— this figure does not even account for the state’s first Super Bowl in the legal-betting era (for more info on Maryland Super Bowl click here).
SWARC Chair Tom Brandt recently said at a meeting that the entry costs could discourage new businesses from seeking licenses.
“The license fees are pretty steep for some of these (businesses) so it’s not a trivial choice to buy into the game,” said Brandt.
Licenses cost small businesses $50,000 and major outlets $250,000 when obtaining. These costs are enough to discourage certain businesses from applying even if they would almost surely pass the vetting process.
Maryland sportsbooks may partner with in-person establishments. 30 new retail licenses and 60 online licenses could become available between now and 2023; it is unknown whether operators are currently negotiating with unlicensed betting venues.
The MLGCA has sole authority over the approval process for sportsbook operators. Many of Maryland’s legal sportsbooks offer promotions during the sign-up process.
“Facility and online operator partners do not go before the SWARC, so staff can issue the license after determining that the applicant meets technical and operational requirements specified in regulation and is ready to start conducting sports wagering,” says the MLGCA website.
Brandt is enthusiastic about the future of the state’s approval and expansion of venues and operators.
Battling for Online Maryland Sports Gambling
The SWARC recently met with attorney Kim Copp of the Taft firm to discuss a survey of national betting operations. This survey, given to 49 betting groups across the country, focused on how the industry was progressing.
“I do believe we’ll get quite a bit of response back,” said Copp. “We will obviously take those responses, curate them, go through them, and of course, present them to this group so you can see what the industry input is, what suggestions are, and obviously utilize the answers then to craft what our rules and regulations would be for the application.”
The SWARC has still not yet approved any online sports betting regulators.