Maryland Casinos Argue State Sports Betting Licensing Process Unjustly Delayed

Posted on: November 17, 2021, 08:42h. 

Last updated on: November 17, 2021, 10:40h.

Maryland’s three largest casinos are urging the state to speed up the issuing of their sports betting licenses.

Maryland casinos sports betting MGM National Harbor
MGM National Harbor’s BetMGM Sportsbook, seen here, is ready to take action. But Maryland regulators haven’t yet signed off on the casino’s sports betting license. Maryland casinos are calling on the state to speed up their act. (Image: MGM Resorts)

MGM National Harbor, Live! Casino Maryland, and Horseshoe Baltimore wrote the state’s Sports Wagering Application and Review Commission (SWARC) this week. They called on the agency to expedite its approval of sportsbook applications.

The three commercial casinos were already found suitable to operate sports betting by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC). But Maryland’s complex sports betting law — passed after Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum during the November 2020 election by a 2-1 margin — requires that the newly formed SWARC also review and approve each sportsbook application.

Maryland’s sports betting law allows for up to 60 mobile sports betting licenses. That’s plus permits allocated for the six land-based casinos, horse racetracks, professional sports stadiums, and the State Fairgrounds. The large number of documents to review and consider has greatly delayed the process. That must change, say the casinos.

Casinos Seek Expedition

In their letter to SWARC, MGM, Live!, and Horseshoe points to the legal language in Maryland’s sports betting law, which they say requires the state to procure licenses in a timely manner following MLGCC approval.

Each of the ‘Class A’ applicants signing this letter has passed the rigorous scrutiny of the MLGCC and satisfied the conditions for licensure established by HB940(F). Yet, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission has delayed approval of these licenses for several weeks with no clear explanation for the delay,” the letter argues.

“As Maryland casino operators, we are good faith, proven partners with Maryland residents, the State of Maryland, and the Maryland Legislature. We have provided the State of Maryland more than $12.47 billion dollars since beginning operations in 2010.

“We ask SWARC to give speedy consideration to the applications who have met the requirements of this statute, and award ‘Class A licenses’ to those applicants found suitable by the MLGCA,” the letter adds.

SWARC’s next meeting is set for tomorrow, November 18.

Minority Requirements Cited

Maryland’s sports betting law, state politicians claim, is designed to be inclusive, where not only the big casinos can participate, but also smaller businesses. And MGM, Live!, and Horseshoe believes that’s likely what’s holding up SWARC.

House Bill 940 necessitates that a certain number of sports betting license recipients be minority-owned businesses or meet “certain minority business participation goals.” The casinos say that stipulation does not apply to the Class A licenses that are allocated for the state’s six land-based gaming properties, which already adhere to their own minority hiring mandates.

The casinos say they’ve hired hundreds of workers to operate their sportsbooks. But those incoming employees have yet to enjoy their first day on the job because of the SWARC wait. Along with lost wages, those Marylanders are awaiting the start of “critical health benefits for themselves and their families during a global pandemic,” the letter contends.

The NFL season is the busiest time of the year for US sportsbooks. And Maryland’s Baltimore Ravens, despite an upset loss at Miami last week, seem poised for a playoff run. DraftKings, one of the expected incoming Maryland operators, has the Ravens at 14/1 to win the Super Bowl.