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Maryland Moving Slowly Toward Sports Betting Launch

A flag is flown prior to the running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP.

It has been a slow burn with regard to the Maryland legal sports betting scene. IThe state’s voters overwhelmingly approved sports betting on the election ballot in November 2020 and sports betting was officially signed into law in May 2021. Fast forward many months and Maryland’s platform has gone through more than its share of regulatory and legislative hurdles but still hasn’t gone live.

What has become clear is that retail facilities will come first in Maryland’s legal sports betting industry and a mobile platform will follow months, if not a year, behind the land-based platforms. Early 2022 has been identified as the launch time for the retail facilities, leaving the mobile side waiting in the wings, possibly until the end of 2022 or even 2023.

Through it all, Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, recently assured that his administration will “continue to work to get sports betting up and running in Maryland as quickly as possible.”

What’s been done so far

The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission has approved five casinos for launch, all with mobile sports betting partners. Each launch will hopefully come near the beginning of 2022, in time for the Super Bowl and the March Madness tournament.

Hollywood Casino in Perryville (partnering with Barstool), the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore (Caesars), the Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover (FanDuel), the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill (BetMGM), and the Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin (TwinSpires) have all been approved, but still need to come up with a plan on how they will operate their platform.

With that expected to take four-to-six weeks, the projected launch date of early next year appears safe.

What’s yet to come

It has been obvious for some time that the commission’s focus in Maryland was getting the retail casinos up and running. Not much news has come to light on just when the more lucrative and accessible mobile sports betting platform will be coming to the citizens of Maryland.

There is still a ton of work to be done on that front, including the approval of online licenses for prospective sportsbooks in the state. The competition is expected to be fierce but those in the running for coveted licenses still don’t have a clear idea about the timeframe or what is going to be expected of them.

Some of the stumbling blocks with final approval include debate over ensuring diversity amongst the licensees, as the state’s legislation mandated, and whether to stagger the launch dates of various apps or roll them all out at once.

Those with knowledge of the Maryland sports betting scene expect mobile sites to become active some time in Q2 of 2020, after the Super Bowl and March Madness but in time to get their feet wet before the kickoff of the 2022 NFL season. It seems like an optimistic timeline, considering the pace of Maryland’s process so far.

What’s on the line

Maryland is the 18th-ranked state in the U.S. in terms of population with almost 6.2 million residents but is also home to three pro sports teams. Two NFL franchises play their home games in Maryland – the Washington Football Team and Baltimore Ravens – as well as MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. College sports is also a passion for many Maryland residents.

Maryland is expected to be a major player as soon as its legal sports betting platform fills out. A number of $20 million per year seems to be a popular projection.

What’s the holdup?

Maryland is far behind most of its neighbors who are all reaping the benefits of a legal sports betting platform. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia all border Maryland and are generating their share of tax revenue from sports wagering.

There is some dissatisfaction with the pace of the rollout in Maryland. Three retail casinos slated to launch have signed on to a joint letter asking for “speedy consideration” for an expedited process. They have also sought an explanation for the frustrating delays.

Other states including Arizona and Wyoming legislated sports betting around the same time as Maryland and are already taking bets. Louisiana, whose voters also spoke up on the November 2020 election ballot, is quickly approaching its launch date.

It’s clear that Maryland has some catching up to do, to the chagrin of sports-crazed fans in the state. But at least Maryland is moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction.