After years of waiting, Maryland bettors will likely soon be able to place sports wagers in their own state. On Thursday, sportsbook applications from five casino operators were approved by the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission. This means that Maryland is about to become the 32nd state with legalized sports betting. The approval comes after a delay that lasted for several weeks and frustrated all the interested parties, including bettors, sportsbook operators, and political leaders.
Five Sportsbook Operators Recevie the Commission Approval
The casinos are more than ready to start the new era of legal sports betting in Maryland. In the anticipation of the approval, they have already added bar-style sportsbook areas to their facilities. While there are still some formalities to be sorted out, the expectation is that the first sports wagers will be placed within the next couple of weeks.
The five casinos to receive approval are:
- Hollywood Casino Perryville
- Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore
- Live! Casino in Hanover
- MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill
- Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin
While the approval went through, the commission was still divided on the matter. It’s best shown but the vote results, which went 5-2 in the favor of the approval. The casinos in the state are already under the jurisdiction of a separate body, the Maryland Lottery, and Gaming Control Commission. So the State Assembly has created an “alternate licensing standard” which is how the five venues received their approval.
Minority-Owned Businesses are Left Behind
Some members of the Commission felt that it would be unfair to provide certain operators with a starting advantage in this potentially very lucrative market. In their opinion, it will be difficult for homegrown start-ups, especially those owned by women and POCs to keep up with the major industry players such as MGM, Live!, or Horseshoe.
They asked that these smaller businesses be given a bit of time to prepare so they can catch up with casino giants. Some of the state’s lawmakers, gathered in the Legislative Black Caucus, wanted licenses to be more evenly distributed among the more diverse businesses. Some members, such as Rosie Allen-Herring, voted for the approval but are wishing to see a more diverse applicant pool in the near future.
According to reports, some minority-owned restaurants and bars are preparing their applications but have not gotten as far as the five operators that received the approval. Some applications are expected to arrive at a later date.
Sportsbooks to Become Operational Within 45 Days
Now, five approved sportsbooks have to go through the required financial, security, personnel, and operational reviews. Those are expected to be completed over the next month and a half. At that time, we should see the first Maryland sportsbooks start their operation. Chairman of the lottery and gaming commission, E. Randolph Marriner, said these are untested waters for the state lawmakers.
That’s the main reason for delays in the process so far. The SWARC even received criticism from the state’s Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. He urged the commission to move on the application more quickly. The newly open businesses should provide an economic boost to the state and stop the money from flowing to the neighboring states.