Maryland Sports Betting: Good News, But Still Many Questions As 2021 Winds Down

Written By Derek Helling on November 23, 2021

Marylanders can probably remember when 2021 was shiny and new and the world was full of possibilities for the year when it came to Maryland sports betting. That has since gone awry and it looks like the year could very well pass without any legal wagering in the Old Line State happening.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom on this topic. In fact, there’s recently been some news that bodes well for the new year bringing glad tidings for people in the commonwealth looking forward to no longer having to travel to neighboring states to put their bets down.

The latest on the Maryland sports betting rollout

Right now, in-person wagering seems imminent. Last Thursday, the MD Sports Wagering Application Review Commission approved facility licenses for five of six Maryland casinos. That represented one of the final regulatory steps necessary to getting their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks up and running.

Each casino has already announced an operational partner for its sportsbook. The facilities and partnerships are:

There have been no announcements about a partnership at the Rocky Gap Casino or of the status of its application.

Also still up in the air are when the five licensed facilities will start taking bets.

When will these five Maryland sportsbooks go live?

According to MD Lottery & Gaming Control Agency Director John A. Martin, the prospective timetable is 45 days after final license approval. Given the fact that it occurred on November 18 for these five facilities, these sportsbooks will probably open sometime early in January.

That’s provided everything goes well with the final regulatory steps, of course. The regulatory bodies still need to inspect systems, vet key personnel, and actually issue the licenses. It’s completely possible that Marylanders could be ringing in the new year with as many as five legal retail sportsbooks.

The Riverboat on the Potomac, which has a contract with PointsBet Sportsbook, might join them not long after. That facility got preliminary approval on its license recently as well. That is still pending final review from the SWARC, however.

Other facilities like Rocky Gap Casino could join them in due time. The law in MD essentially guarantees retail licenses to a total of 17 casinos, OTBs, and racetracks in the state. At this time, however, only the five aforementioned casinos are on the verge.

That’s very much the opposite of the status when it comes to online wagering in MD. Currently, there isn’t much progress toward that at all.

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What about online betting in MD?

Martin hasn’t sugarcoated anything for Marylanders in this regard. He’s made it plain that it could be late 2022 before they are able to legally place bets on their phones.

Why the delay? For one thing, it hasn’t been that uncommon for online sportsbooks to go live in new jurisdictions after their retail counterparts. Licensing and inspecting systems simply requires more work and takes more time in that context.

Also, Maryland has some special considerations in connection to its online licenses that don’t apply to the retail licenses. Specifically, those pertain to providing opportunities for minority-owned, small, and women-owned businesses.

Those parameters add to the amount of time and work necessary to approve such licenses. For that reason, regulators in MD seem focused on getting the brick-and-mortar side taken care of right now and then moving onto mobile.

The bottom line is that while legal sports betting in MD in 2021 seems unlikely to happen, the new year could literally ring it in. At least on the retail side, that is.

Photo by Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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