Two days after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) sent a scathing letter to members of the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) criticizing their slow rollout of Maryland online sports betting, SWARC Chairman Thomas Brandt defended the commission’s handling of the its sports betting processes at its latest meeting.

Hogan criticized SWARC earlier in the week for its slow progress. The governor urged the commission to “immediately accelerate and intensify” its efforts to launch Maryland online sports betting before Sept. 8, 2022, the start of the NFL regular season.

Maryland voters approved sports betting in November 2020 and its rollout to online sports betting has been the longest of any state with legalized sports betting.

Chairman defends SWARC progress

The Maryland sports betting law, Brandt said during Thursday morning’s meeting, is extraordinarily complex and its bevy of legal requirements takes a great deal of time to address. SWARC has been tasked with ensuring racial, ethnic and gender diversity when awarding Maryland sports wagering licenses.

“SWARC and its support team have been operating as diligently as it can under the Maryland sports wagering law,” Brandt said.

SWARC has been tasked with ensuring minority owned businesses and women owned businesses to have an equal opportunity to participate and have equity in Maryland’s sports betting market. The commission’s task to ensure this goal must be undertaken within the confine’s of the bill, Brandt said, which can be a time consuming affair.

The commission is progressing towards licensing operators and launching online sports betting in Maryland and is taking several steps to speed up the process, Brandt said during the meeting.

Early online sports betting rules and regulations, plus a preliminary draft of the online sports betting license application, will be discussed and possibly voted on during a special meeting of the commission on June 29 at 9 a.m. This should allow SWARC to publish online sports betting applications shortly thereafter and begin accepting applications “sometime in the summer.”

Brandt did not discuss a date for when online sports betting may launch in the state.

Steps taken to accelerate process

Jim Nielsen, a representative for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, said the department will open its eLicensing platform to all prospective sports betting applicants on June 17. This will be for all applicants who wish to pursue a Class B sports betting facility license or online sports betting license.

Applicants will be given access to the department’s online system to initiate their criminal and financial background checks, which can be a lengthy process.

“The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission’s investigations and the SWARC’s application process may not have the same starting point, but it’s always been the plan for them to unfold on parallel tracks,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin in a press release. “Some investigations could take several months, so now is a great opportunity for all potential applicants to get the ball rolling.”

This is a required step, along with SWARC’s upcoming application, to license online sports betting operators.