Maryland Sports Betting Is ‘One Step Closer … To In-Person Wagers’ in Late Fall

Maryland’s legal retail sports betting launch inched closer to launching Wednesday after state regulators advanced the state’s three largest casinos sportsbook licenses for formal approval. Officials have given no firm go-live date but Maryland’s first legal retail bet should come sometime this fall.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission advanced licenses for Live! Casino Maryland (partnered with FanDuel), MGM National Harbor (BetMGM) and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (Caesars). Each must be approved by a separate regulatory body, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), but that is largely a formality.

The SWARC is scheduled to formally award the licenses at its Oct. 14 meeting. Maryland gaming commission officials said in a statement that each must pass further internal control reviews and additional operational requirements, but that should be completed in the coming weeks.

“We’re pleased to have these three applicants approved and move them along to the SWARC,” Maryland lottery and gaming director John Martin said in a statement. “Our team is diligently implementing the sports wagering law, and we’re one step closer to the first in-person wagers, which we hope will take place by late fall.”

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Maryland Sportsbook Structure

The three in-person sports betting licenses advanced Wednesday are the first in a multi-tiered regulatory structure that allows more than 100 potential combined retail and online sportsbooks.

Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law created a distinct set of 17 retail licenses for certain entities:

  • The three largest casinos mentioned above
  • Three additional smaller casinos (Ocean Downs Casino; Rocky Gap Casino; Hollywood Casino Perryville)
  • Three professional sports venues (FedEx Field, M&T Bank Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards)
  • The operator of Laurel Park and Pimlico horse tracks (Stronach Group)
  • Seven additional facilities including OTBs as well as the state fairgrounds

These facilities, most of which have some tie to gaming and/or sports, are expected to earn the state’s first licenses. There’s no timeline for the other 14 facilities not included in Wednesday’s announcement, but several already have sportsbook deals announced.

Regulators are also undertaking a separate review process for the 60 statewide mobile licenses permitted under state law. The 17 specified entities are not granted online licenses in conjunction with the retail licenses nor are they guaranteed rights to statewide mobile sportsbooks. While these organizations and facilities existing ties to regulated gaming have an inherent advantage in the licensing process, virtually any business or group in Maryland can apply for a mobile license.

Additionally, there are up to 30 retail-only licenses available for Maryland businesses separate from the aforementioned entities. The SWARC will consider both online and retail license allocation and by law must consider minority and female ownership among a host of other criteria before awarding sportsbook rights.

Maryland Sports Betting Future

Maryland gaming stakeholders anticipate a gap between the retail sportsbook and statewide mobile launch, which seems increasingly likely to go live sometime in 2022. Most other details are still being worked out by state regulators.

Some stakeholders are pushing for a coordinated online launch for all licensees instead of the one-at-a-time rollout in neighboring Virginia. The single launch date, advocates argue, will help level the playing field, though it could mean an even longer timeline for the state’s go-live date.

Though the actual launch remains in question, market participation is starting to become clearer.

In addition to retail books for FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars, each company is expected to earn a statewide mobile license. Other major operators including DraftKings, PointsBet, Barstool Sportsbook and TwinSpires already have secured market access or are expected to do so.

Maryland’s 60 potential online sports betting license cap is among the nation’s highest. WynnBet, Bally Bet and a host of other operators have already expressed interest in the market.

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