Perhaps finally hearing the cries of state bettors and pressure from Gov. Larry Hogan, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) took steps at its last meeting to potentially accelerate Maryland’s online sports betting application process.

SWARC Executive Director Thomas Brandt explained at the commission’s last meeting that new licensing regulations are being drafted to avoid further online sports betting delays.

Over the past year we’ve heard extensive legal advice regarding constraints upon us in so managing the licensing process. To avoid further delays, we have asked staff and our professional team to draft regulations which exclude race and gender based license criteria,” Brandt said. 

The new regulations were approved by members of SWARC, but what effect will they have on an actual launch date? Will they be able to meet Gov. Hogan’s directive to have online sports betting up and running by week 1 of the NFL season?

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Maryland online sports betting still on hold

Maryland voters approved a 2020 proposition legalizing sports betting in the state and Gov. Hogan signed the bill into law in 2021. Retail sports betting launched this past December, but state bettors are still waiting to take advantage of online sports betting. Maryland has had the longest delay of any state from a bill being signed into law and the launch of its online sports betting program.

The new regulations will be sent to Maryland Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review for “emergency approval.” If approved by the committee, the regulations will undergo a 30-day public comment period and be sent back to SWARC where they could undergo further changes.

While the new licensing applications will expedite the matter somewhat, Brandt said SWARC is still waiting on an industry disparity study to determine if there is a legal basis to implement race or gender conscious measures into the application and evaluation process. The study is expected to be completed later in the summer, but its findings could also lead to necessary additional regulation changes, Brandt said.

“Once the emergency SWARC regulations are effective, and the industry disparity study is done, SWARC can set a date when formal applications and fees may be submitted. Then we’ll be in a position to set a timeline for additional actions,” Brandt said.

When may Maryland see an online bet?

So what does this all mean? Is Maryland going to meet Gov. Hogan’s demand for an NFL week 1 launch?

No. An NFL week 1 launch is all but impossible with the current timeline, but it does give Maryland and state bettors hope that bets may be available sometime in 2022.

If everything goes well, and Maryland Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review grants emergency approval for SWARC’s new licensing regulations sometime in August, the regulation could come back to the commission after the 30-day public comment period in September.

Then? Well, it will be on SWARC’s plate to devise a new timeline for potential online sports betting applicants and actually award the online sports betting licenses. This all takes time. Background checks are required, regulations need to be met, and stringent testing needs to be undertaken before the licenses can be awarded.