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Sports wagering in Maryland: A waiting game

Where things stand with gambling on sports in Maryland
Posted at 6:24 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 18:24:03-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With Ravens games underway and the college football season right around the corner, gambling on sporting events is about to kick into high gear.

But not in Maryland. Not yet.

Almost three months to the day after Maryland’s sports wagering bill was signed into law, you still can’t legally place a bet in the state. The only game in town for Maryland bettors right now is the waiting game.

When will Marylanders be able to start legally gambling on sports?

"Of course, that is the question and we’re just as excited about the beginning of that process as anyone else," said Director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming John Martin. "But there is a very measured process."

That process includes the awarding of sports wagering licenses. That’s the job of the newly-created Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC). The group held its first public meeting on Monday.

Here’s how the licensing process works: SWARC will determine who should get the sports wagering licenses. Once that is decided the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency vets those candidates. If everything checks out, SWARC then awards the licenses. Lottery and Gaming then serves as the regulators of the state’s sports wagering market.

Maryland’s sports wagering law named 17 physical sites deemed ‘non-competitive’ to allow sports betting. They are:

  • MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill
  • Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover
  • Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City
  • M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore City
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore City
  • FedEx Field in Landover
  • Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin
  • Hollywood Casino in Perryville
  • Rocky Gap Casino in Flintstone
  • Laurel Park Race Track in Laurel and Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore City
  • Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium
  • Bingo World in Baltimore (Anne Arundel County)
  • Rod-n-Reel in Chesapeake Beach
  • Jockey Bar and Grill in Boonsboro
  • Greenmount Station in Hampstead
  • Long Shot’s in Frederick
  • Riverboat on the Potomac in Colonial Beach, Va. (docked in Maryland waters of the Potomac River)

On Monday SWARC took a small step toward getting things up and running. Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming and Live! Casino, explains:

"They provided the non-competitive licenses with approval, to move forward with, to our regulators. So, now that it’s in the hands of the regulators we should see some processes move forward so that the non-competitive licenses can get going."

But what about the others?

SWARC can award up to 30 additional ‘competitive’ licenses to brick-and-mortar locations. And up to 60 online or mobile licenses. The application fees range anywhere from $50,000 to $2 million for physical locations. $500,000 for online/mobile.

A problem as of now: there is still no sports wagering license application process laid out and there is still no timeline as to when that we be ready.

"We are trying to plant a flag in the ground in a very positive way for Baltimore, for Maryland, and really be a success story," said Chris Adams.

Adams is a Towson native and the CEO and Founder of SharpRank, a Maryland-based global company that independently keeps track of and ranks the performance of betting experts and analysts. The longer Maryland takes to get sports gambling on its feet, the longer it potentially takes to keep building his business.

"Close to 70 percent of the handle, which is what people bet, is based around football," said Adams. "If this implementation does take until after football season, there’s really no rush then.

"The benefits that the state is going to receive from sports betting, like it or not, in this country, it is football. That’s college football and NFL."

Right now all of Maryland’s border states and Washington D.C. are receiving those benefits - all have legalized live sports gambling. 21 states and D.C. are in that boat. Ten states, including Maryland, have legalized it but it’s not yet operational.

When fully implemented Maryland stands to receive 15 percent of the gross revenue from sports wagering. Those funds are earmarked for public education programs. There is no telling when those funds will start coming in for the state, the licensees, and others.

"For all of the small business owners, for all of the tangential industries that stand to gain from this infusion of sports betting law, it is going to create rippling effects as it becomes more and more common place here," said Adams.

"[We're] all ready to go once we have all the necessary approvals from our state and from our legislature and from the regulators," added Norton.

The waiting game continues.

"It’s going to be several weeks. We’re looking at maybe late fall, winter time frame before we can get people into the game," said Martin. "We can better serve the Maryland population by doing what we do best and that’s to work through our day-in, day-out business and fully vet, meticulously, the sports wagering applicants to make sure that we are doing it with integrity."

The next meeting of SWARC is tentatively scheduled for the week of September 20.

For more information on sports wagering in Maryland click here.

Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerWMAR and Facebook