Mobile sports betting in Maryland is getting closer to reality after the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) approved draft regulations and mobile/retail licensing applications on Wednesday.
The meeting had a sense of urgency, and the commissioners wasted little time approving the regulations, having had a few days to review the updated drafts before Wednesday’s session.
At the outset, Chairman Tom Brandt reiterated that Maryland law requires the commission to “actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among the licensees.”
However, he then said that over the past year, the commission had been provided with extensive legal advice regarding constraints upon them in managing a licensing process for sports betting operators.
“To avoid further delays, we have asked staff and our professional team to draft regulations which exclude race and gender-based license criteria,” said Brandt.
Brandt also highlighted that to create diversity in applicants, each new application must include at least 5% of its direct or indirect ownership by individuals with a maximum personal net worth of $1.8 million.
The stipulation is a ceiling that they feel will broaden the candidate pool of entrepreneurs.
Main updates to the draft regulations and applications:
- Inclusion of a definition of personal net worth
- Changed the requirement for the application submission of the e-licensing portal for a background check. It was 30 days but was changed to 14 days
- Addition of definition for full-time equivalent employees. A number is needed to determine if a facility applicant is going for a Class B1 or Class B2 license
- Addition of a requirement that applicants need to provide a statement about disciplinary actions and fines they may have received in other jurisdictions
- Addition of the stipulation of having 5% of ownership to have a maximum net worth of $1.8 million
Still Room for Changes
While the emergency drafts have been approved, Brandt noted that there could still be hurdles to clear along the way.
“SWARC is still awaiting an industry analysis by entities including the office of the Attorney General,” Brandt said. “When that process is completed, and we have considered that input, there may be changes to the regulations and applications.”
The emergency draft approval was likely put in motion after Gov. Larry Hogan pressured the group last month to have mobile sports wagering launched by the start of this year’s NFL season.
Now that the commission has approved the regulations, it can submit them for an emergency review to the Maryland Legislature Joint Committee Administrative Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) for emergency approval. After that, the 30-day public comment period can commence.
Prospective applicants will then be able to begin compiling their submissions using these draft applications and can use the MLG’s e-licensing portal to apply for background investigations.
“Once the emergency SWARC regulations become effective, and the industry analysis is completed, SWARC can set a date when formal applications and fees may be submitted,” Brandt said. “Then we’ll be in a position to set a timeline for additional actions.”
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What Happens Next?
The approved regulations will now go to the AELR. Once approved and submitted to the Maryland Register, a 30-day public comment period will open up to give stakeholders a chance to provide input.
The SWARC has scheduled its next meeting for Aug. 17, and there is hope that the legislative committee will have made a decision on the emergency regulations by then. If so, it could open the door for SWARC to begin accepting applications for mobile sports betting licenses.