Maryland Gambling Days Away, as Five Casinos Finally Receive State Approval

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Maryland sports wagering is at long last nearly here, as five of the state’s commercial casinos finally got official approval to offer such expanded sports betting at their brick-and-mortar facilities.

After months of delay, the Sports Wagering Application and Review Commission (SWARC) allowed gambling in MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe Baltimore, Live! Casino Hotel, Ocean Downs, and Hollywood Casino Perryville. SWARC is mandated with reviewing each sportsbook tender of multiple expected applicants.

With the SWARC’s approval that the five casinos are fit to run sportsbooks, the final step is the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) giving each casino a sports betting license. The lottery corporation will do so after receiving the $500 000 on-time down payment from each casino.

Recently SWARC has faced criticism, including from the casinos and Governor Larry Hogan (R), for not acting more quickly in handling its reviews of the casino sportsbook applications.

Diversity dilemma

More than 12 states have decided to legalize sports betting. However, Maryland’s sports wagering law is unlike any other.

Maryland legislators sought to allow a diverse group of stakeholders to get into its regulated gambling industry. Along with sports wagering permits set aside for the state’s six casinos, horse racetracks, professional sports stadiums, and state fairgrounds, Maryland earmarked gambling licenses for minority- and women-owned small businesses. (Rock Gap has not yet applied for sportsbook concessions).

It is unclear exactly how the SWARC seeks to help level the playing field for minority- and women-owned businesses, but that seems to be a discussion topic in future meetings.

Businesses including convenience stores that have less than 25 workers and $3 million in annual revenue can apply for, and upon approval, receive sports wagering permits for as little as $50,000. Such establishments will partner with experienced third-party operators such as DraftKings to incorporate self-service sports wagering kiosks and share future revenue.

Maryland Live has already partnered with Fandual sportsbook and established a new 212 seat sports and social venue with 47-foot screens and a state-of-art sound system.

About 60 mobile and small business permits are available, which presents a heavy load of applications for SWARC to review. The casinos claimed that they are long-established operators in the state, so the long delay in SWARC issuing their approval was illogical.

Some call an unfair advantage

During Wednesday’s SWARC sitting, certain commissioners appeared to have some doubts about allowing the casinos to start their sportsbook operations ahead of small businesses.

“I’m troubled that we don’t have more minority interest at the ready,”

said SWARC commissioner Rosie Allen-Herring.

Commissioner Frank Turner stated it would be logical to issue the permits simultaneously. He said,

“I feel to a certain degree that I’m being rushed.”

Despite the doubt, SWARC voted 5-2 to approve that the five casinos be issued their sportsbook permits. Hogan celebrated the result.

“We are pleased that the legislature’s sports wagering commission has finally acted to approve these licenses,”

the governor said in a tweet.

“Our administration will continue to work to get sports betting up and running in Maryland as quickly as possible.”

Gross revenue from sports wagering will be dependent on 15%. Most of that money will be directed towards public learning institutions.

SWARC official Laura Gamble noted that mobile sports wagering generates much more revenue than retail facilities. Gamble believes the SWARC should strongly emphasize minority and female involvement in the mobile moving forward.

The NFL season is the busiest time of the year for US sportsbooks. And Maryland’s Baltimore Ravens seems poised for a playoff run despite an upset loss at Miami last week. DraftKings, one of the anticipated incoming Maryland operators, has the Ravens at 14/1 to win the Super Bowl.