Maryland regulators target 2022 online sports betting launch

main__photo

Maryland regulators are now projecting a late 2022 online sports betting launch after clearing several key regulatory hurdles in recent days.

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) opened sportsbook applications earlier this week, a critical step for legal online sports betting’s launch. The application opening begins a timeline that would, potentially, allow sportsbooks to start taking bets before year’s end.

“This is fantastic news,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin in a statement announcing the application opening. “We know sports fans are eager to have mobile wagering, and we also know that it will substantially increase the contributions to education funding, so we’re eager too.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to have it launch before the end of the year, and now we have a good chance to make that happen.”

Maryland’s 2021 sports betting legalization bill requires involvement by both the SWARC and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission. This multi-faceted setup is one of many reasons why Maryland is undertaking the nation’s lengthiest legal online sports betting launch process.

Kansas sportsbooks took their first legal bets just over three months after the state’s sports betting bill was signed into law. Maryland will take at least 18 months.

Maryland voters technically legalized sports betting via a November 2020 ballot measure. The ensuing implementation legislation was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in May 2021.

Both the ballot measure and the companion bill required regulators to consider women, minority and small business ownership stakes in awarding online sports betting applications. Lawmakers and regulators conducted a disparity study to evaluate these criteria, a months-long project that also delayed awarding sports betting licenses.

Hogan was among the many public officials – and Maryland residents – that criticized the lengthy sports betting process.

Maryland Lottery Director John Martin: “We’ve been doing everything we can to have it launch before the end of the year, and now we have a good chance to make that happen.”

After months of delays, Maryland cleared several long-stalled hurdles in recent days. A committee of lawmakers signed off on regulators’ rules earlier this month, allowing the SWARC to open the application process. Regulators also held a public comment forum on the rules Friday, another step toward an online sports betting launch.

As with all other states with legal sports betting, Maryland’s rules cover key requirements not covered explicitly by the legislation including licencing requirements, fees and a host of other criteria.

The application period is set to close Oct. 21. SWARC, which will ultimately award the licenses, had indicated it could take 45 days to review the applications. Each sportsbook will also need to pass independent lab certification before accepting bets.

That sets up a potential launch timeline in late December. Though Maryland online bettors would miss most of the NFL and the entirety of the college football regular seasons, it would allow for wagering on their respective post-seasons.

Maryland can award up to 60 online sports betting licenses, the most of any state in the country, though it likely won’t see nearly that many sportsbooks. Colorado and New Jersey are the only states with more than 20 live online sportsbooks.

More than 30 states as well as Washington D.C. have at least one legal online or retail sportsbook.

Maryland’s first retail sportsbooks opened earlier this year at several casinos and off-track betting facilities. The NFL’s Washington Commanders are planning to open a retail book within or near FedEx Field, while Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law allows the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and MLB’s Baltimore Orioles to do the same.

Online sports betting is expected to generate more than 90% of the state’s legal wagering handle once live.

“Maryland Lottery and Gaming has been hard at work on background investigations,” Martin said in a statement. “A number of businesses that are planning to apply for mobile licenses have already submitted information to get their investigations started, and our Licensing staff will continue guiding them through the qualification procedures.

“We’re focused on expediting our part of the process so mobile betting can start as soon as possible.”

About the author

photo
Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

Related Stories