Sports Betting Hall Of Famer Explains How Maryland Sports Betting ‘Got It So Wrong’

Maryland legalized sports betting in 2020, and the state has a handful of retail sportsbooks available. That’s the end of the good news, though. Maryland is still dealing with the bidding and licensing processes for new online operators.

Retail is nice, but mobile sports betting apps are where the real money is. If you ask Sara Slane, founder of Slane Advisory and former senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, the fact that Maryland has been dragging its feet is a major black eye.

At full maturity, the Maryland market expects to have 60-65 sports betting licenses. Slane said the state’s current difficulties stem from trying to serve too many different constituencies.

“I think that Maryland got it so wrong, especially on the mobile piece,” said Slane, who is a 2020 Sports Betting Hall of Fame inductee and whose background is steeped in politics and legislation. “Having 65 gaming licenses available, I’m a huge proponent of advancement but I’m not sure that this is the right fit. It’s a low-margin business, it’s a very complicated business, and it’s a very capital-intensive business.” 

 “It has taken way too long comparatively when you have states like Arizona and Ohio that may end up surpassing Maryland even though Maryland passed the vote back in 2020. I’m pretty discouraged by it, but we’ll see. It’s just a really complicated structure that they’re having to navigate.”

How Much Is Maryland Sports Betting Losing?

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency announced that more than $32 million was bet at Maryland retail sportsbooks in January during their first full month of operation. 

As a point of comparison, nearby Virginia’s total sports betting handle from online operators was $485.5 million in January. The Virginia Lottery, which regulates licensed sportsbooks in the state, announced that the mark established a new monthly record. Virginia does not have any retail sportsbooks.

Virginia handled 15 times as much money as Maryland in January. That’s an example of how much tax revenue Maryland is missing out on by being so slow with the process. 

“The legislative model did not set this structure up for success, unfortunately,” Slane said. “I think that they’re doing the best that they can. When I was at the AGA, this was something that we’d always advocate for: In order for the operators to succeed and thrive, they have to be able to compete with the illegal market, and so much of that really comes through the policy framework.”

About the Author

Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson is a contributor to Maryland Sharp. With more than 15 years as a journalist, his work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and more. Kris also wrote a sports-betting novel entitled, The Endgame.