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Maryland approves five casinos for retail sportsbooks

Maryland sports betting news

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Committee (SWARC) signed off on five sports betting license bids last week, allowing the applicants to start the process of rolling out retail sportsbooks at their land-based casinos.

The seven-member special committee met on Thursday to evaluate the applications and determine whether the casinos qualify for the permits previously recommended by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC). After lengthy discussions, the members voted 5-2 to award the licenses.

The five facilities given the all-clear by the SWARC are Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover, MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Hollywood Casino in Perryville, and Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin. However, all of these venues still have several procedural steps to complete before they can start accepting wagers.

The next step in the process will involve getting approval for their internal controls systems, security systems, operating procedures, and responsible gambling policies. Maryland sports betting laws also require the MLGCC staff to test the operators’ systems to ensure they are free of any glitches before green-lighting them to start operations.

The Director of the Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, John Martin, has said that this process could take 30 to 45 days.

“We’re excited to move forward, and we’re coordinating closely with the casinos to make sure they finish everything as quickly as they can,” said Martin.

“Work has been on going, and we’re close. Our target is to launch within 30 to 45 days, which means Marylanders will be able to bet on the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. We couldn’t be happier about that.”

SWARC raises concerns over inclusion and minority participation

Unlike other places that have legalized sports betting in the United States, Maryland’s enabling legislation strives to ensure equitable participation by minority and women-owned businesses, and the licensing rules also give special consideration to these groups.

In the Thursday meeting, some members of the SWARC raised concerns over approving the five casinos to proceed with the licensing process ahead of minority-owned businesses, arguing that they should delay the vote to allow other applicants to “catch up”.

“The only thing we’re asking is, give us a little more time so that some of these minority and women-owned businesses can catch up, and they can start at the same starting point,” stated former Maryland lawmaker Frank Turner.

“We don’t ever seem to start at the same starting point that everybody else does, and then we get left behind, just like we did with the cannabis. We got left behind, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid this time.”

Turner and Cassandra Stevenson were the two commissioners who voted against approving the casinos’ licenses.

However, other members argued in favor of awarding the permits, saying that the casinos would still roll out their sportsbooks sooner than other applicants even if they were all approved simultaneously.

The establishments are among 14 eligible venues that applied for permits to offer sports betting in the first round of applications, which kicked off in September. The MLGCC vetted the applications of the five casinos and recommended them for permits in October, but the SWARC chose not to act on the licenses as it sought more information about the ownership of the businesses.

Some of the 14 entities that submitted bids for permits have minority ownership, but their applications are still in the initial stages of evaluation by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming staff.

PointsBet declared eligible to pursue MD sports betting license

In a separate meeting held on Thursday afternoon, the MLGCC announced that PointsBet had qualified to apply for a sports betting operator permit and recommended alternative licensing standards for the company.

In its decision, the regulator said that PointsBet was already approved in at least three states with similar requirements as those set by the Commission.

The announcement now allows the company to start working with the Lottery and Gaming Commission in its preliminary review, which will entail investigations to ascertain whether it meets the licensing criteria. The Commission will then forward the application to the SWARC for the second round of evaluation and approval.

PointsBet gained access in Maryland through a partnership with The Riverboat on the Potomac. The venue is among the 17 entities earmarked for licenses in the first application window.

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