Maryland Sports Betting Launch Still Set for ‘Late Fall’ in 2021

Maryland Sports Betting Launch Still Set for ‘Late Fall’ in 2021 article feature image
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Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: M&T Bank Stadium.

Maryland regulators reaffirmed Tuesday they are targeting a “late fall” sports betting launch but still have no firm timeline for a retail or online go-live date.

State regulators are already working with as many as 17 entities on background check investigations before awarding sports betting licenses, said John Martin, Director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Martin told the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), the committee tasked with awarding the licenses, that regulators were hoping to continue “positive momentum” toward a launch in the coming months.

The SWARC last month opened the license application process for the 17 entities specifically mentioned in the state’s 2021 sports betting legalization bill. This group of would-be operators, which includes the state’s casinos, major professional sports venues and off-track betting facilities, will likely be the first to open retail and online sportsbooks in the state.

State casino officials told the Action Network earlier this month they believe retail betting will earn regulatory approval before statewide mobile wagering, but were still not sure about a launch timeline for either offering.

Along with the 17 assigned licenses, Maryland’s sports betting bill directs the SWARC to award up to 30 additional retail and 60 online sportsbooks to state businesses. These will likely go live sometime after the aforementioned group.

The 17 entities already allowed to apply for licensure will need final approval from the SWARC before going live, which should come sometime before the end of 2021. These gaming stakeholders are hoping to capture as much as possible of the current football season, perennially sportsbooks’ most lucrative time of the calendar year.

Known Sports Betting Entities

The following 17 entities were allowed to apply under a set-aside sports betting license category for retail sportsbooks at their respective facilities along with mobile betting apps:

Casinos

  • Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (owned by Caesars)
  • Hollywood Casino Perryville (owned by Penn National)
  • Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland (partnered with FanDuel)
  • MGM National Harbor (owned by MGM, operator of BetMGM)
  • Ocean Downs Casino (owned by Churchill Downs, operator of TwinSpires)
  • Rocky Gap Casino

Stadiums

  • FedEx Field (Washington Football Team)
  • M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

Other Facilities

  • Bingo World (Brooklyn)
  • Greenmount Station (Hampstead)
  • Jockey Bar and Grill (Boonsboro)
  • Maryland State Fairgrounds (Timonium)
  • Rod-N-Reel (Chesapeake Beach)
  • Long Shots (Frederick)
  • Riverboat on the Potomac (Colonial Beach, Virginia — partnered with PointsBet)

Stronach Group, owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico horse tracks, is also allowed to apply for a sports betting license.

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Maryland Sports Betting Background

Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved a 2020 ballot measure that allows retail as well as online sports betting and requires regulators to assure small, women and minority-owned business participation in the market.

State lawmakers met this requirement through a multi-tiered licensing process that charges larger, existing gaming entities such as the casinos higher licensing fees than small businesses. Lawmakers also created the SWARC, which is required to consider female and minority ownership stakes, among a myriad of additional criteria, when awarding licenses.

Maryland is the first of the more than two-dozen states to approve legal sports betting with such a regulatory structure. State officials said final sports betting operator rules will not be finalized until November, following a public comment period that ends this month.

It remains to be seen how Maryland’s small businesses will fare in the market. Though few states allow such a wide range of market participation, every state with legal wagering has seen a handful of national brands earn the vast majority of wagering handle. FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM alone take up the majority of national market share, creating a potentially difficult competitive situation in a state that could see dozens of operators.

Market Interest Remains Strong

Though Maryland’s sports betting launch and market structure are largely undetermined, leading operators are still heavily interested in the state.

Maryland has the highest per capita income of any state, some of the nation’s highest education levels and multiple professional sports teams, major factors that correlate positively with sports betting participation. Each of Maryland’s neighbors (Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware) already offer legal sportsbooks.

The plethora of available licenses means that virtually any interested national operator has a market access pathway. Basically any Maryland business can apply for one of the 60 online or 30 retail licenses permitted by the state’s 2021 sports betting law.

Maryland will also be one of the first states with in-stadium sportsbooks, joining Arizona and Washington D.C. Multiple Illinois stadiums are pursuing in-venue sportsbooks and an Ohio bill under consideration would permit sports betting licenses for the state’s major professional sports organizations.

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