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Maryland Sportsbook’s plans approved by state gaming regulators

Online sports betting sites are currently running in Maryland; however, operators will need to put in some work to stay that way. On Wednesday morning, the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) converged to consider the diversity plans submitted by the 10 companies that previously received legal sports betting licenses.

Under state law, the sportsbooks needed to submit their diversity plans to the state’s regulator. The plans are vital if they intend to offer online sports betting in Maryland because the SWARC needed to try to make sure diversity was present in awarding licenses.

The commissioners need the licensees to release information concerning the creation of a diverse ownership group in addition to proposed timelines to achieve their diversity goals.

Maryland’s regulatory process states that all license seekers were to agree to a memorandum of understanding with the state’s regulator. This agreement commits the operators to make “good faith efforts” to interview women and other minority investors during capital-raising efforts in the future.

The blueprints showing how each operator intends to increase diversity in its company must be submitted to the SWARC within 30 days of the license issuance. The organizations would then need to agree to make more good-faith efforts to reach the goals stated in the plan and turn in report-related metrics that the public can access.

Tom Brandt, the SWARC chairman, revealed that all the mobile sports betting licensees that received permits submitted their plans before the 30-day deadline. BetMGM, who was one of the operators, approved two minority investors that bought an ownership stake in the bookmaker’s Maryland subsidiary. The operator also recently collaborated with the Tom Joyner Foundation, known for supporting historically black universities and colleges.

All 10 operators that submitted their plans to the regulator were swiftly approved, and the SWARC will supervise the implementation of those plans.

“It’s been a long couple of years to get to this point, and I think we’ve got some real substance in those plans. Now it’ll be on us to monitor that the execution matches the plans,” Brandt said.

The 10 operators approved by the SWARC include BetMGM, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (Caesars Sportsbook), Bingo World (BetRivers), DraftKings, Maryland Stadium Sub (FedEx Field/Fanatics Sportsbook), Long Shot’s (Betfred), Live! Casino & Hotel (FanDuel), PENN Maryland/Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool Sportsbook), Greenmount OTB (betPARX) and Riverboat on the Potomac (PointsBet).

“Maryland’s sports wagering legislation was innovative in its provisions encouraging diverse participation in this new Maryland industry. To that end, there is some real substance in the plans that we’ve approved,” Brandt said.

The SWARC gave the 10 entities mobile licenses in November. The diversity plans will likely be posted on the Maryland gaming regulator’s website in the near future.

Legal sports betting was approved by Maryland voters in November 2020 via ballot measure; however, event wagering did not kick off until December 2021 and when it did, it was only accessible in mortar and brick casinos. By November 2022, mobile sports betting launched in Maryland, and seven online and nine retail sports books started taking bets toward the end of December.

According to Brandt, there were still nine mobile sports wagering license applications left which were making their way out of the regulatory process, as well as five retail facility applications. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission is set to meet on January 26, so those applications will likely be attended to.

To get a sports betting license in Maryland, the applicant must be deemed qualified for the permit by the commission. This will be followed up by the SWARC’s decision to award the operator, and then a controlled demonstration will be conducted in addition to a survey of other regulatory areas. After all these are met, the applicants will be issued their permits and can begin receiving bets.

Fanatics Sportsbook will reportedly launch its retail outlet on Friday, with the company’s mobile sportsbook not far behind. Betfred and betPARX are also slated to kick off their mobile sportsbooks in the state in the next few months.

Neither WynnBET nor Bally Bet has gone live despite receiving their mobile sports betting licenses recently. They will likely start taking wagers soon but are yet to reveal their official launch plans. The SWARC will likely discuss the operators’ diversity plans in the meeting set for February 15.

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