The launch of sports betting in Maryland has taken longer than most people anticipated. Now, with Governor Larry Hogan aiming to provide mobile betting services by the end of the summer, state gambling regulators just took a small stride forward with their efforts.
The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) met on Wednesday to discuss the proposed rules and applications for Class B retail establishments, as well as for companies that host mobile wagering. These businesses were not mentioned in the law that was passed by the General Assembly in 2021.
Complicated Licensing Requirements May Discourage Small Businesses
The legislation seeks to level the playing field for small and minority-owned businesses by allowing them to compete with some of the country’s most well-known firms, but some have questioned whether it is really feasible.
In order to have a physical sports betting presence, any bar or restaurant would need to cover the costs of infrastructure and security. If the establishment does not own the building, they would need to demonstrate that hosting sports betting would not violate their lease agreement. Furthermore, the establishment would need to show that their lease extends for at least five more years – the length of time a license is valid. Finally, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain a license, requiring the completion of two different applications.
Tom Brandt, who chairs SWARC, questioned whether the committee is overdoing it in terms of these requirements. He wonders, “Are we making it too hard with all the stuff we’re asking for?”
Other committee members, like former state delegate Frank Turner, are on a similar page, recognizing that the provisions are “going to be overwhelming” for the average person, restaurant, or startup.
Partnerships With Established Brands Could Be a Solution
At the same time, though, controls and security are important for the licensing process. Michael Schaller, another SWARC member, argues that the lengthy process will help to weed out businesses that would likely struggle to remain operational.
Kim Copp, a legal consultant working with the panel, told the members that many of the rules and questions in the application were taken word for word from other states in some cases. Copp went on to say that she suspects most, if not all, of the facility licenses will team up with established gaming companies to handle a lot of this, especially the sports wagering component of it. An example of that is what Maryland Live! did with FanDuel for on-premises sports wagering. This process of partnering with established companies would help lighten the load for applicants as well as ensure compliance with all regulations. The panel members seemed to be in agreement with Copp and expressed their desire to see this happen. As a result, it is likely that we will see more partnerships between gaming companies and established businesses in the near future.
Governor Larry Hogan Hopes to See Progress Soon
Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan criticized the SWARC panel for moving too slow in their efforts to legalize sports betting in the state. Hogan has expressed his impatience with the process, hoping to have applications for sports betting accepted by late summer. Brandt acknowledged the growing impatience around the state, but explained that the process is more complicated than it appears. He said that Maryland’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship have led to an extra layer of bureaucracy.
The sports betting industry is still in its early stages, and Maryland is taking the time to get things right. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but it is clear that there is a lot of potential for growth. Stay tuned with Bet Buddy MD to hear the latest legal updates!