Maryland’s Online Sports Betting Rollout Is Longest Delay in US History

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It's been nearly 18 months since Marylanders legalized online sports betting, and it'll likely be another six before they have access to it, according to gaming regulators.

Now the longest delay of any state to legalize sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on the industry, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director, John Martin, said he's not surprised it's taken this long.

"Our law was far more comprehensive than another other jurisdiction's, so it's really not a fair comparison," Martin said. "If we had the same rules as any other state, we most likely would have been up and running by now."

The ballot referendum approved by Maryland voters in November 2020 requires the newly formed Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) to study market-inclusion opportunities for minority- and female-owned businesses.

Martin's agency is still waiting on that study, which likely won't come until at least summertime. Only then can the Maryland Lottery begin the rules and applications process, which will take even more time.

Sometime During NFL Season

It took the SWARC half a year to approve the first licenses for retail betting, which is now live at five casinos across the state, with at least four more on the way. Last week the SWARC held a meeting but declined to give an update on the study.

Martin had targeted Maryland's launch in time for the 2022 NFL season, which starts in September. Now, he'd be happy if the state could just launch during football season.

"A lot has to happen, and I supposed it could, but looking at the track record we have over the last 18 months, it seems unlikelythat it would happen by the start of football season," Martin said. "As soon as we get handed the baton, we’re ready to go out of the blocks."

Losing Out on Revenue

Maryland has made $1.8 million in four months of retail sports betting, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to what's expected from online betting.

Virginia, its neighbor to the south, has already made $24.6 million in taxes off of sports betting. About 86% of wagers comes from online.

Both states tax gaming revenue at the same 15% rate.

Virginia legalized just six months before Maryland, though it did so through traditional legislation. Maryland's route to legalization, as Martin referenced, set it up for a lengthy process.

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A Lengthy Process

Maryland legalized via the ballot, as its attorney general suggested gaming changes require a constitutional amendment.

In Maryland, those proposals reacquire 60% approval from both legislative chambers as well as from a simple majority of voters. It also requires codifying legislation afterwards.

It was the same case in Louisiana, where voters approved sports betting in most parishes the same day as Marylanders. Despite technological challenges associated with parish-by-parish legality, Louisiana online market launched in January.

Before Maryland, Tennessee held the title for longest online delay, at 17 months. With regulators now targeting mid-NFL season, Maryland is poised to smash the record.

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