Sorry Maryland football fans, but you may have to wait a bit longer to get in on any sports betting action. Maryland Governor Lawerence J. Hogan Jr. made a statement on Saturday regarding the continued efforts to help his state’s sports gambling go live. However, with the initial plan of hoping to establish rules and open betting by September, regulatory delays are making Maryland’s government officials roll back that optimism.
“They said it’s just impossible to get it done by the start of football season,” The Governor said, “I pressed them pretty hard about making sure we get it done at least by the end of football season when all the betting takes place, really — in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.”
Maryland’s Bid For Bets
Maryland’s sports betting journey began in November 2020, with a referendum asking voters whether they would support authorizing sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities, with state revenue intended to fund public education. The referendum passed with flying colors, at a hefty 2-to-1 margin.
Three months later, in February of 2021, an official bill was introduced to legitimize sports betting in the state. HB940 was presented to the House Ways and Means Committee, and from there, was sent to the Maryland House of Representatives.
The bill was reviewed and amended, addressing concerns some legislators had with corporate control of sports betting licenses. As a result, new verbiage was added to the legislation, increasing licenses from 23 to 37.
They did this to give local businesses more opportunities to participate in the state’s burgeoning sports betting industry. HB940 then passed the house with a landslide 130-9 vote on March 10th, 2021.
But this is where the delays began to form. The bill then moved to the state senate, where lawmakers had several changes they wanted to be made. HB940 then went back to the house, where it again passed with a vote of 122-16.
Finally, in May of this year, Governor Hogan signed the bill into law, making sports betting legal in Maryland. The bill was technically signed as an “emergency,” meaning the rules go into effect immediately, but the state still needed to set up the infrastructure and approve sports bookers. At the time, Maryland was the fifth state to do so in 2021, after Arizona, New York, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Sports Wagering Application Review Commission
From there, the state government established the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission. This panel was set with the job of deciding who can legally operate sportsbooks within Maryland, a task that turned out to be more time-consuming than previously thought.
The Commission had to consider the previously stated objective of including small business owners, though some of those businesses felt that the playing field was far from level.
“We’re competing against the larger entities,” said Joseph Gaskins, co-chairman at Maryland Business-Clergy Partnership. “Just a sports betting license, competing against MGM, competing against Maryland Live!, competing against Horseshoe, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Sports Bookers Seek Approval
Big names in the sportsbook industry have already applied for Commission review. Penn National Gaming, in partnership with the recently acquired Barstool Sportsbook, hopes to gain approval through its recent acquisition of the Hollywood Casino Perryville facility.
Maryland Live! was also seeking approval, establishing a brick-and-mortar casino in Hanover. They are partnered with FanDuel, and will not only utilize their mobile sports betting platform but have self-serve kiosks present within their physical establishment.
Several other sportsbook entities have their foothold within the state, with BetMGM looking to gain a license through their Baltimore location, MGM National Harbor Casino. In a similar bid, Caesars Entertainment bought the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino and will likely leverage that purchase into an online sportsbook license.
The Commission Is Set To Meet Soon
The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission is set to hold their first meeting on August 16th and stated that they wouldn’t be rushing their decisions. Instead, their goal is to have solidified policies and safeguards in place to ensure the residents of Maryland have a safe and secure experience with the state’s sports betting activities.
“The Sports Wagering Law requires [the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency] to regulate sports wagering ‘to the same extent that it regulates casino gaming,” said the Commission in a public statement.
So for sports fans, there isn’t much to do but wait. As government officials scramble to establish the framework for sports betting, this football season draws ever closer. How far into the 2021-2022 NFL season will it take? That remains to be seen.