More than seven months after Maryland’s sports betting bill was signed into law by the governor and in-person sports betting is still not a reality.

Three Maryland casinos have crafted a joint letter to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), expressing their frustrations at the sports betting delay and urging the commission to award licenses to applicants found suitable by the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Casinos frustrated at Maryland sports betting delays

It was the hope that in-person sports betting in the state would kick off in the fall. However, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said sports betting will be pushed back to the start of 2022 due to recently delays from SWARC.

Now, it’s a question if the state will be up and running before the lucrative Super Bowl, and Maryland casinos are starting to sweat.

In a letter written to SWARC, acquired by Maryland Matters, representatives from Horseshoe Baltimore, Live! Casino and Hotel, and MGM National Harbor, urged the commission to approve their “Class A” sports betting licenses to prevent any further delays.

“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 (SWARC) has delayed approval of these licenses for several weeks with no clear explanation for the delay,” the representative wrote in the letter.

The Maryland Lottery Gaming Control Commission has approved each of these casinos for a license, but SWARC has yet to do so. State casinos were hopeful that the commission would approve licenses at its Nov. 3 meeting, but instead the commission requested supplemental ownership information from the applicants, delaying the process yet again.

“In preparation for the enactment of this statute, the casino industry has hired hundreds of Marylanders to begin working. However, these new employees have not enjoyed their first day, nor have they been given a starting date for their employment, which includes critical health benefits for themselves and their families during a global pandemic,” the reps wrote.

No reasons given for sports betting delays

There has been no formal correspondence to the applicants about a justification for the delays. Casino representatives wrote in their letter that they understand this is due to SWARC’s desire to conduct a second disparity study to determine if there is compelling interest to to assist minorities and women in the sports wagering industry. However, as the sports bill reads, this does not apply to Class A licenses.

“In other words, while the undersigned acknowledge SWARC’s statutory authority under subsection (h) to conduct a second disparity study and to undertake any attendant evaluation for purposes of awarding Class B licenses, SWARC’s exercise of that statutory authority is not a valid basis to delay the prompt award of licenses to Class A applicants.”

During SWARC’s previous meeting, Chairman Tom Brandt said he expects action to be taken on the five applicants at the commission’s Thursday, Nov. 18 meeting. The additional two casinos are Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin and Hollywood Casino in Perryville.

The five casinos were among 17 entities designated in the approved sports wagering bill to conduct sports wagering operations. In August, SWARC voted unanimously that Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission’s qualification standards would be sufficient to award sports betting licenses to the 17 designated entities.

There is currently no roadmap for Maryland online sports betting.