Progress related to sports betting in Maryland has been slow. It was November of 2020 when Maryland voters had their say on the topic. By majority vote, they passed a referendum that clearly declared their desire for the right to bet on sports. That vote put the ball in the court of the state legislature.
When the Maryland state legislature got the directive to start putting together the legislation, they immediately got to work in the early part of 2021. By April of 2021, they had ironed out the details and sent the legislation over to the desk of Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr for signature. He signed the bill (HB 940) in May, and Maryland residents officially had the legal right to start betting on sports.
However, they would have to wait a bit longer for the sportsbook licensing process to take place.
About HB 940
HB 940 passed the Maryland Senate by a unanimous vote of 47-0. That’s very much a rarity given the complexities of sports betting from one state to the next. With the passing of the bill and the subsequent signing by Gov. Hogan, the following sports betting rules went into effect:
Licenses would be made available to the state’s six retail casinos, three racetracks, and the NFL’s Washington Commanders.
Betting would be allow on eSports, college sports (including in-state teams), and pro sports.
Sports betting operators will be required to pay a tax rate of 20% on gross revenue.
Initial license fees will range from $1.5 – $2.5 million with an annual renewal fee of 25% of the original fee after five years.
Maryland Retail Sports Betting Goes Live
After getting the green light for retail sports betting, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) started accepting license applications. That resulted in the following retail casinos getting their sports betting licenses and going live by the end of 2021 (license dates included):
MGM National Harbor Casino – November 18, 2021
Riverboat on the Potomac – December 8, 2021
Long Shots – December 8, 2021
Horseshoe Casino and Live! Casino – December 10, 2021
Ocean Downs Casino – December 17, 2021
Hollywood Casino – December 23, 2021
As of March 2022, there have been a total of nine retail sports betting licenses issued.
What About Maryland Online Sports Betting?
When HB 940 was passed, it legalized both retail and online sports betting. As indicated above, Maryland residents have been able to legally bet on sports through retail casino sportsbooks since the latter part of 2021. But as we’ve seen in other states, that’s only an appetizer before the main course of mobile betting is served. Maryland sports fans are still waiting on a firm date for the full launch of online wagering.
In the meantime, the retail sports betting numbers in Maryland have exceeded expectations (over $25 million in February alone). With that said, the addition of mobile sports betting would be a multiple of that. In other states, it’s not unusual for online betting to account for over 90% of the action. In other words, Maryland sports betting hasn’t even shifted into second gear yet.
Maryland Surrounded By Legal Betting
While it is understandable that the regulators in Maryland want to get it right, there is some urgency. Maryland is right in the heart of legal sports betting territory. It is essentially surrounded by states that have gotten a jump start on implementing legal online wagering.
That means until they launch, Maryland is leaking tax dollars across state lines on a daily basis. Sports fans, in particular those who live near one of the relevant borders, have been crossing over to place bets with the neighboring apps.
Pennsylvania sports betting launched online in May 2019. West Virginia sports betting went fully live online shortly later in August 2019. And Virginia sports betting joined the party with a launch in January of 2021. Maryland lawmakers are justifiably keen to see that flow of revenue stay within state borders.
SWARC Disparity Study
With the potential of the issuance of up to 60 mobile sports betting licenses awaiting, the blame for the delay of the state’s mobile sports betting launch falls squarely in the lap of the SWARC. Before moving forward to set the state’s mobile sports betting guidelines, the SWARC demanded a “disparity study.”
With the study now underway, regulators are starting to look for potential launch dates. Should everything go smoothly from here on out, interested parties would like to see a mobile sports betting launch by the start of the NFL season in September 2022. At this point, everyone is hopeful. It’s been a long wait, but the launch of online sports betting in Maryland might finally be just around the corner.