Maryland targets pre-Super Bowl online sports betting launch

Maryland’s online sports betting launch could arrive by this upcoming football season’s Super Bowl but regulators Monday cautioned there is still no firm timeline for the state’s long-delayed mobile sportsbook go-live date.

State regulators said preparations were underway to start statewide mobile wagering by this upcoming February’s Super Bowl, perennially the nation’s most-wagered upon individual sporting event. Though they couldn’t give a specific date, Monday’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) meeting was the firmest indication yet about the state’s mobile launch.

Still, even a launch by next year’s Super Bowl means Maryland would have the longest turnaround from sports betting legalization to accepting its first online bet of the more than 20 states with legal mobile sportsbooks to date.

Maryland voters technically approve retail and mobile sports betting via a 2020 ballot measure. The measure required follow-up regulatory legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in May 2021.

The ballot measure and ensuing legislation were the first in the nation to require regulators to consider minority, women and small-business participation in the legal sports betting market. An ensuing disparity study on the matter has still not been finalized and SWARC members Monday said they are still awaiting its conclusion before continuing the sportsbook licensing process.

SWARC members Monday also said they are awaiting sign-off from the legislature Joint Committee on Administrative Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) on proposed sports betting rules before operators can apply for licenses.

Regulators are hoping the AELR approvals can be finalized before the end of the month. That would then spark a 30-day public comment period ahead of what would be a final approval.

Assuming no substantive changes during the public comment period, SWARC members said that they hoped to begin the licensure review shortly after. In a best-case scenario, that would mean regulators begin reviewing license applicants in October.

SWARC members voted Monday to try to complete the application review within 45 days, but said it could take longer depending on the number of applicants and the complexity of their applications. The commission must consider the aforementioned diversity requirements among a host of additional suitability and other requirements before awarding a license.

There are more than 40 mobile sportsbooks live in at least one jurisdiction in the US, most of which are projected to apply for licensure in Maryland. The state’s 2021 sports betting law will allow up to 60 mobile licensees.

After the SWARC awards a licence, each sportsbook must also be approved by the state gaming commission for technical certification including independent lab testing. Similar approvals in other states have taken around a month.

Assuming AELR signs off in August, no major public comment changes in the following 30 days, the expedited 45-day license review period and the industry-standard technical certification process, Maryland’s online sportsbooks would be positioned to go live in December 2022 or January 2023. Super Bowl LVII is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2023.

The prolonged rollout has frustrated Maryland elected officials and would-be bettors alike. Hogan has repeatedly urged regulators to expedite the online sports wagering process, insisting residents are angry and discouraged by the process.

Several retail sportsbooks at state casinos, which are part of a separate regulatory review process, are taking bets now as the only legal wagering options in the state. Regulators have also approved retail sportsbooks at a handful of off-track betting facilities and Monday signed-off on a proposed book at the Washington Commanders’ FedEx Field.

Online wagering is expected to make up more than 90% of the state’s total handle once live.

About the author

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.

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