Maryland Lawmaker Jason Buckel Argues For More Sports Betting Licensees

Written By J.R. Duren on September 15, 2023
Maryland State Del. Jason Buckel Addresses Colleagues

There are 24 sportsbooks in Maryland split evenly between retail locations and online gambling platforms, but that’s still not enough for Maryland lawmaker Jason Buckel.

During a briefing this week, Buckel challenged Maryland State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) Chair Randy Marriner to open up the sports betting licensing window, according to Maryland Matters.

Marriner is a member of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which plays a part in the licensing process.

Maryland sports betting licensing is a tale of 107 possibilities

When sports betting became legal in Maryland, lawmakers and regulators settled on an important number: 107. That number represents the total number of sports betting licenses available under state law:

  • 17 licenses handed out to brick-and-mortar businesses under an expedited process
  • 30 licenses for retail sportsbooks
  • 60 licenses for mobile sportsbooks

Those numbers reveal a considerable shortfall between the 24 licensed operators in the state and the 107 there could be.

Now, Buckel wasn’t asking SWARC to hand out all the remaining 93 licenses. However, he argued that there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the state that could supplement their income with on-site sports betting.

And to do that, SWARC would need to open up the application window it closed in October.

Marriner, however, said that businesses weren’t exactly beating down SWARC’s door for licenses, according to Maryland Matters.

Other states have focused on small-business sports betting

Buckel argues that opening up the licensing window could help small businesses across the state.

In theory, Buckel makes a good point. Ohio is the prime example of a state where regulators made a point to provide accessible ways for businesses to offer on-site sports betting.

The state allows facilities like bars and restaurants to offer sports betting kiosks. Customers can use the kiosks to place bets on qualified sporting events, although there are limits on how much can be bet.

Maryland does not have kiosks. However, its regulators have the power to open up the application process again and provide an expedited way for small businesses to get licenses.

But will SWARC do what’s needed? The chances don’t seem good…for now. Regulators seem to be content with the wait-and-see approach.

Maryland regulators may not know the market as well as they should

MLGCA Assistant Deputy Director James Butler said during the briefing that regulators want to see how mergers and acquisitions in the sports betting space play out, according to Maryland Matters.

One has to question how well Maryland regulators understand their market.

MLGCA Director John Martin said his agency was surprised that online sports captured 95% of the state’s sports betting handle, and that mobile sports betting “will continue to drive the train,” Maryland Matters noted.

Yet anyone with even basic knowledge of the US sports betting market can tell you that online gets the lion’s share of betting handles. Regulators should’ve known that before they legalized sports betting.

And they certainly shouldn’t keep licenses out of brick-and-mortar businesses simply because online sports betting dominates Maryland’s action.

Photo by Steve Ruark / AP Photo; illustrated by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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