Maryland Inches Towards Launch of Legalized Retail Sports Betting

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On November 18, 2021, Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) approved five casinos for sports wagering facility licenses allowing casinos partnered with third-party operators to provide retail sports betting. The licenses were awarded to the Hollywood Casino in Perryville (partnering with Barstool), the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore (Caesars), the Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover (FanDuel), the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill (BetMGM), and the Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin (TwinSpires). The Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Commission (Commission) expects to officially issue the licenses within 30-45 days, during which time it will conduct a detailed review of each licensee. John Martin, the Commission’s director, commented that with the approval of the licenses on November 18th, if “all goes well, that would mean a launch date somewhere around the first of the [new] year.” Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Governor reiterated the state’s commitment to issuing these licenses within this timeline, tweeting, “[o]ur administration will continue to work to get sports betting up and running in Maryland as quickly as possible.”

The Commission expects to issue additional sports wagering facility licenses in the future. As we reported previously, the Commission is authorized to issue sports wagering facility licenses to the state’s casinos, professional sporting venues, horse racetracks, off-track horse race betting facilities, and up to 30 additional companies or individuals.

Conversely, the mobile sports betting rollout is progressing at a much slower pace. SWARC has had much internal debate regarding the issuance of mobile sportsbook licenses, specifically regarding (1) ensuring diversity amongst the licensees, as the state’s legislation mandated; and (2) whether the launch of mobile sports betting should be staggered versus uniform. A staggered launch will result in licenses issued sooner and on a rolling basis, while a uniform launch, in which multiple licenses are issued at once, will likely delay the launch date. As a result of these unresolved issues, John Martin believes mobile wagering is “easily” still at least six months to a year away.

We will continue to monitor ongoing developments in Maryland and provide further updates when appropriate.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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