Maryland Sports Betting Stakeholders Push For Joint Launch
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images. Pictured: The Maryland Terrapins mascot pumps up the crowd while waving the Maryland state flag.
While Maryland regulators work toward the state’s still-undetermined sports betting launch date, sportsbook stakeholders are asking that the first wave of operators go live at the same time.
Officials from PointsBet, which is already partnered with one of the state’s off-track betting facilities for retail and online sports betting, asked regulators Wednesday for a single launch date, instead of the individualized approach taken in other states.
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Sports Wagering Application Review Committee (SWARC), PointsBet Senior Vice President Paul Hannon said a joint launch would be more equitable in what stands to be one of the nation’s most competitive markets.
“This would not allow for any unfair advantage to any approved operator and provide equal treatment under the law, including for minority business enterprises in the spirit of the (2021 sports betting) bill that was passed,” Hannon told the SWARC, which licenses the state’s sportsbook operators.
Seventeen operators were specifically included under the state’s 2021 sports betting law, including six casinos, three professional sports stadiums, the operator of the state’s two largest horse tracks, the state fairgrounds as well as several OTBs. These facilities’ retail books will likely open later this year and sometime before the statewide mobile betting launch, which may not come until 2022.
PointsBet is partnered with the Riverboat on the Potomac, an OTB adjacent to Colonial Beach, Va. Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland in Arundel Mills (FanDuel), Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (Caesars) and MGM National Harbor (BetMGM) are already preparing retail sportsbooks, three of what could be dozens of retail competitors in addition to the statewide mobile market.
Virginia has continued its one-at-a-time operator launch, with 10 books now offering statewide mobile wagers. Other states including Illinois followed this individual approach, but it has become less common as more states begin the legal sports betting launch process.
Arizona, Michigan and Wyoming all had a single launch date for their respective online sportsbook operators earlier this year. Connecticut is set to follow with a joint launch for its three approved online sportsbooks Oct. 7.
Maryland Sports Betting Structure
The single launch date request comes as Maryland regulators continue work on final sports betting rules and licensing requirements.
The SWARC has already signed off on the 17 named operators to pursue retail licenses, a process that officials earlier this week said is already underway. Officials have still not given an official launch timeline for the first retail books other than “late fall.”
The committee is also tasked with assigning up to 60 statewide mobile licenses. Each of the 17 named entities can apply for an online license but is not guaranteed to earn one. The SWARC is required to consider women and minority business participation in awarding licenses, among a myriad of additional criteria.
Maryland’s 2021 sports betting bill also allows a pool of 30 additional retail-only licenses for business interests independent of the 17 named operators. These licenses are intended for locally owned businesses to participate in the overall sports betting market.
Besides Wyoming and Tennessee, which don’t cap licenses, Maryland allows for the most potential sportsbook operators. However, it could be years until Maryland comes close to meeting that total. Colorado’s 25 online live online sportsbooks are the most of any state currently.
Though Maryland’s regulatory structure creates a potentially wide-open competitive market, many industry observers believe the state will continue to be dominated by partners with the larger operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars.
The continued market domination of these sports betting giants, advocates for the state’s smaller operators argue, is another justification for a synchronized launch date.