Mobile Sports Betting In Maryland May Not Launch For 12 More Months, Lottery Official Says

Maryland sports bettors are wondering why casinos aren’t open for their business yet. They have a much longer wait before they’ll be able to pull out their phones and make a wager on the Ravens, Orioles, or Terrapins.

Per John Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, it may be 12 more months until mobile sports betting goes live in the state.

Licensing For Maryland Mobile Sports Betting

The licensing process just for retail licenses has been mucked up in Maryland, as the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) canceled a meeting last week where three casinos were expected to be approved. While no new timeline has been established for when brick-and-mortar businesses can start to take bets, the process is even more complex for mobile.

Martin is hopeful for a late fall launch for retail but does not expect mobile betting to begin any time soon.

“The (SWARC) has to develop mobile application requirements,” Martin told Maryland Sharp this week. “So if you look at the logical breakdown of how these things are gonna have to hit on a calendar, you’re easily six to 12 months (away), and I would put that more toward the 12 for mobile because of all the things that have to happen. There’s a second study that is required now by the SWARC that hasn’t begun yet. So just look at the beginning and ending dates for some of these things – and some of them are dependent events, they all can’t be concurrent – it’s just going to take a series of months to get us there.”

Riverboat on the Potomac, one of Maryland’s 17 designated retail licensees, fully intends to go after a mobile license, too. Tony Jones of Delmock Entertainment, which owns 25% of Riverboat, believes that with mobile betting accounting for such a large percentage of the handle, the launch of mobile has to be expedited.

“I don’t know that I can necessarily agree with (Martin’s estimate of 12 months), but the Lottery knows what the Lottery has to do to get it done, and I trust their judgment,” Jones said. “However, there is a significant amount of revenue that I know our state government is dependent upon coming into next year. They don’t want to lose another year’s worth of revenue from whether it’s playoff professional football through the Super Bowl, March Madness – they don’t want to miss that, nor do they want to miss another professional football season. It’s not going to happen.

“I can’t tell you when they will put the application out, but I’m pretty much certain it’s not going to be a year because let’s be honest, the major casinos didn’t get into this for retail sportsbook.”

Lots Of Betting Licenses In Maryland

When it finally launches, the sports betting industry in Maryland promises to be unique in some positive ways. The state has undertaken an initiative to license women- and minority-owned business (of which Riverboat on the Potomac is one), and its sports betting law calls for up to 107 licenses – 47 at retail and 60 mobile.

“Up to” is an important qualifier there. Those are ambitious numbers, and the barriers to entry aren’t exactly low in this industry.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to have 107,” Martin said of the law. “Matter of fact, it’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out. We may have some people who will begin the process and realize when we go through the vetting that they don’t have the financial integrity or the infrastructure to support and suffer the swings that you could have in running a sportsbook.”

Also in Maryland, a retail licensee doesn’t automatically qualify for a mobile license. In other states, a retail license comes with the right to launch a mobile app – or a “skin” in industry parlance.

“By law, they are completely separate, which again is one of the differentiating factors here in Maryland,” said Martin. “So if any of those 17 (designees) plus the 30 other at retail, if any of those 47 choose to want to proceed (with mobile), they certainly have that opportunity to, but they have to make application.”

Count in Riverboat on the Potomac, which has a 10-year agreement with PointsBet – a sportsbook operator well versed in mobile.

“They will be a major player in the industry,” Jones said of PointsBet. “The revenue anticipated for sports betting is anywhere $270 to $325-350 million, depending on who you ask. They believe they will be well into the double digits with respect to capturing some of that revenue.”

About the Author

Marcus DiNitto

Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor for Gaming Today. He has been managing editor at SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, The Linemakers, and USA Sports Gaming. Marcus earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.