Maryland Set for New Year Sports Betting Launch as First Licenses Approved

  • The SWARC gave approval to the five land-based casinos during a meeting on Thursday
  • Retail sportsbooks should be ready to launch around the start of 2022
  • A total of 17 gambling facilities are initially eligible for a retail sports betting license
  • The launch of online sportsbooks in the state could take another year
Maryland flag against a wood background
Five casinos have been awarded retail sports betting licenses in Maryland; sportsbooks are expected to open within the next two months. [Image:]

Getting the green light

Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) has given the green light to five land-based casinos for retail sports betting licenses. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) division announced the approval of the licenses on Thursday following a 5-2 vote.

first bets in the state are expected to be made in the next couple of months

The first bets in the state are expected to be made in the next couple of months. This means that the licensees should be ready to accept bets in time for the NFL playoffs in January.

The five casinos to get the licenses were Churchill Downs’ Ocean Downs Casino, MGM National Harbor, the Cordish Companies-owned Live! Casino & Hotel, the Caesars Entertainment-owned Horseshoe Casino, and the Penn National Gaming-owned Hollywood Casino.

Each of these casinos already received approval from the MLGCC in October to have their applications considered by the SWARC. The properties were expecting to get the go-ahead two weeks ago, but there was no vote on the matter at that time.

An accelerated timeline

Following the approval of these licenses during the SWARC meeting on Thursday, the MLGCC unanimously voted to delegate to staff the authority to officially issue the licenses, once every procedural requirement has been completed. As a result of this decision, the MLGCC stated that it would speed up the rollout of sports betting in the state because the commission would not need to have a meeting to vote on issuing the final licenses after each sportsbook product successfully completes its testing period.

Regulators need to approve the likes of internal controls, responsible gambling plans, and employee training procedures. Commission staff also need to complete a controlled demonstration of each sportsbook before final approval.

There were 17 gambling facilities outlined in the state’s sports betting legislation that were granted the first chance to apply for retail sports betting licenses. In addition to casinos, the venues included racetracks, bingo halls, and off-track betting facilities.

MLGCC director John Martin talked about the excitement of moving forward with the rollout of sports betting and noted that the commission is closely working with the casinos to ensure that everything goes smoothly. He said: “Our target is to launch within 30-45 days, which means Marylanders will be able to bet on the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. We couldn’t be happier about that.”

Good news for PointsBet

The MLGCC also announced that PointsBet is now eligible to get an operator sports betting license in the state. This comes after the Australia-based operator signed a partnership agreement in June with the Riverboat on the Potomac casino, providing it with market access. PointsBet is eligible as it has licenses in at least three other states which have similar regulatory standards to what is in place in Maryland.

A full licensing investigation will be necessary before issuing a license to PointsBet. Speaking about the operator licensing process, MLGCC director Smith said: “Licensing investigations are quite extensive, so we’re continuously communicating with applicants to guide them through the process.”

Maryland will eventually open up the application process for additional retail sportsbook licenses, as well as up to 60 online sportsbook licenses.

Despite it looking like retail sportsbooks will be up and running in the next couple of months in Maryland, online sportsbooks are still a ways away, perhaps as much as another year. State residents gave their approval to sports betting during a November 2020 ballot. Since then, there have been questions about the slow application and licensing process, with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan being one of the critics.

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