Maryland Sports Betting Continues Toward Fall Launch

Maryland Sports Betting Continues Toward Fall Launch article feature image
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James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Maryland state flag.

Maryland sports betting remains on track for a fall 2021 launch after regulators advanced several hundred pages of key sportsbook regulations without opposition Thursday.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission’s uncontested votes clear a key regulatory threshold that will allow state officials and future sportsbook operators to continue launch preparations. No formal go-live date has been scheduled, but all parties are working to capture as much of the lucrative football season as possible.

FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet and Barstool Sportsbook are among a dozen or more brands that have already announced market access deals or that are expected to do so. Caesars William Hill posted job listings earlier this week for a future sportsbook at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, and FanDuel has already constructed a physical sportsbook in Live! Casino Hotel Maryland near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Details

Maryland will license as many as 60 statewide mobile sportsbooks, though it could take years to reach that cap. Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law permits its six casinos and three professional sports venues to apply for licensure, all of which are expected to do so. Three more are set aside for the owner of Laurel Park and Pimlico horse tracks, the state fairgrounds and an off-track betting facility, respectively.

The remaining 48 online licenses will be available for minor league baseball parks, bars, restaurants and scores of other businesses. Maryland will likely be the first state to license a business outside sports or the broader gaming industry to operate a sportsbook.

Many of these same businesses can also apply for one of 30 retail sportsbooks. If all licenses are fulfilled, Maryland would have the most retail sportsbooks of any state outside Nevada.

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Next Steps

The regulations approved Thursday are now subject to a 30-day public comment period that is set to commence in the near future. After the review process, sportsbook applicants can apply for licensure.

The gaming commission will have to certify the eligibility of all sportsbook applicants. They will also have to earn licensure from the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission.

Maryland’s unusual two-tier regulatory review process is designed in part to facilitate minority and women-owned business participation in the market. These provisions were mandated as part of the 2020 sports betting ballot measure voters approved last fall that amended the state constitution to permit legal wagering.

Gaming commission officials noted Thursday that this will be the first gaming-related licensure application for many small businesses unfamiliar with the industry. While the casinos, tracks and sports venues will likely be among the first to pass all personal and regulatory requirements, the process could drag on for many of the smaller sportsbook business partners.

Worth Noting

Maryland’s regulations appear to require official league data on all bet types, not just individual prop wagers. If included in final regulations (and not challenged legally beforehand), this could mean another fee for all operators and a significant financial blow for smaller sportsbook partners in what is already a low-margin industry.

All official league data fees must be “commercially reasonable” and are subject to regulatory approval. Still, it could be a substantial financial handicap if operators had to compensate leagues for widely available data such as winning scores.

Though leagues have pushed states to mandate such requirements, Maryland would be the first to have such an expansive definition of “official league data.”

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