Maryland online sports betting will begin next week on Wednesday, November 23. The long-awaited kickoff comes just hours before the NFL serves up its traditional Thanksgiving feast of games.
Marylanders amended the state constitution through a 2020 ballot referendum. The vote added sports betting to the state’s permitted forms of commercial gambling.
The state subsequently passed legislation that set the regulatory framework for allowing gambling on college and professional sports. But the bill Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed in May 2021 mandated that the newly formed Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) take considerable measures to provide “equity” in the state’s expansion of gaming.
Specifically, Maryland’s sports betting bill required SWARC to embark on a good-faith effort to issue the sportsbook operator licenses in an equitable manner. The state’s casinos were swiftly deemed suitable to receive in-person sportsbook licenses. That’s because they already meet a slew of state-ordered diversity metrics. Retail sports betting began in December 2021.
A lengthy “disparity analysis” reviewing potential shortcomings in other states that have legalized online sports betting was blamed for SWARC’s lengthy process. The industry review was to determine whether minorities and diverse small businesses were discriminated against in other states, albeit unintentionally. That’s because those states didn’t value race- or gender-based grading criteria in their application processes.
Facing criticism, SWARC requested and received legislative approval to ditch the disparity analysis review and expedite the issuance of online sportsbook permits. The state gaming agency decided to instead require that each licensed online sportsbook regularly update the state on its diversity ownership and employment statistics, and on how the entity might improve its minority involvement in the forthcoming year.
Neither SWARC nor the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) can revoke an online sportsbook license solely on the grounds that an inadequate number of minorities are involved with a license.
SWARC earlier this week approved its first batch of mobile sportsbook applicants. The online operators are now amid a regulatory review of their operations overseen by the MLGCC.
The MLGCC has approved all of the common pro and college sports bettors like to wager on, including college football and basketball, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Marylanders will also be able to bet on college lacrosse, a sport wildly popular in the Old Line State. Other obscure sports that have been approved for betting by the MLGCC include darts, table tennis, jai alai, and NCAA softball.
Once each sportsbook’s test run is completed without any issues being identified by the MLGCC, the online book will be allowed to begin accepting bets from the public on November 23. The exact time for Wednesday’s debut is still being determined by state officials.
We should have an update as we get further into this final issuance phase,” MLGCC Director John Martin said during Thursday’s meeting. “We will hope to announce a start time for Wednesday early next week.”
Of the 10 licensees, three say they won’t be ready for Wednesday. Those books are Betfred, BetPARX, and Fanatics. The seven others plan to take their first wagers on November 23.
The NFL Thanksgiving slate includes the Buffalo Bills at the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys, and the New England Patriots at the Minnesota Vikings. The Baltimore Ravens’ first game following the commencement of online sports betting in Maryland is scheduled for Sunday, November 27.