Maryland Mobile Gambling Launch Has Still No Timeline

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Despite the governor’s push for a September launch, the regulators failed again to give a definitive timeline for the Maryland online gambling launch.

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission met Wednesday to discuss draft regulations and applications as it heads toward awarding mobile licenses in the coming months.

Following its traditional snail’s pace, the SWARC did not make Wednesday any better than the previous meetings – most of which went uneventful.

There was no additional action, and there was no definitive timeline for Maryland mobile wagering launch.

The latest SWARC meeting comes roughly a week after Gov. Larry Hogan sent a letter demanding the regulators accelerate the regulatory mechanism to meet his Sept. 8 launch goal.

What Happened at Wednesday’s SWARC Meeting?

Beyond some draft-related discussion, nothing really happened on Wednesday. The commissioners remained primarily quiet during the meeting.

Thomas Brandt, the SWARC chairman, opened the meeting by providing a loose timeline of upcoming events with the draft regulations. 

Brandt briefly discussed if the retail application is too comprehensive, asking if the SWARC is overdoing it. “Are we making it too hard with all the stuff we’re asking for,” Brandt said, believing it’s too much for a restaurant or a startup.

Committee consultant Michael Schaller said the applications would help sift the potential operators. 

The regulatory authority hopes to pass draft regulations and applications in the next few weeks. The commission will next meet on July 20. However, it can possibly hold an earlier meeting.

According to the law, the Maryland mobile wagering launch could see as many as 60 mobile licenses.

Next Steps for Maryland Mobile Wagering Launch

Once the regulators approve the sports betting regulations, they will go to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. After that, the regulations need a further 30-day public comment period. After that, the rules may see further changes following that.

So, Maryland mobile wagering launch is several steps away before the residents find legal mobile sports betting options in the state.

August appears to be the earliest before those steps begin. Brandt said that the SWARC might be able to begin accepting applications in late summer.

Though SWARC will award wagering licenses through its application process, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency must also approve the operators.

How Have We Come Here?

Maryland sports betting legislation created the SWARC, responsible for launching what has become the longest legalization to launch state in the US.

Last week, Hogan expressed displeasure over the Maryland mobile wagering launch delay, reprimanding the SWARC for ironing out bureaucratic complexity to expedite the launch to coincide with the 2022 NFL season.

However, despite two meetings since Hogan’s letter, the SWARC has practically shrugged off his recommendations.

Earlier this week, the MLGCA opened an eLicensing portal, allowing applicants to fill out information for background checks. According to MLGCA COO Jim Nielson, multiple operators have already applied for the licenses.

So far, the target date appears highly unrealistic.

What’s Taking So Long?

Despite the governor’s pressure, it is a bit unjust to blame SWARC entirely for delaying the mobile launch. Maryland sports betting legislation includes a provision to ensure involvement from women and minorities. However, according to Brandt, the SWARC is still waiting for the results of a disparity study. The disparity study, still in progress, will help determine what measures the SWARC can legally implement to increase minority and women’s involvement in the sports betting industry.

The commissioners concluded Wednesday’s meeting to get legal advice on diversity-related questions the applications can ask.

While Maryland mobile wagering launch may take a few more months, the residents can legally bet on five retail locations in the state since December 2021.

Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020.

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