After over a year of delays, Maryland is finally expected to launch its retail sports betting market on Friday. A handful of national sports betting brands have been granted licenses in partnership with Maryland-based casinos, with the potential for more to be added shortly. On Friday, FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino Maryland and Caesars Sportsbook at Horseshoe Casino have scheduled ceremonies where the first legal sports bets will be placed. With sports betting made available in plenty of time for college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs, Maryland should be able to capture significant tax revenue in the coming months.
Long Delay Caused Frustration
In November 2020, Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved sports betting in a referendum. The state’s House and Senate later passed the sports betting bill HB940 before Governor Larry Hogan signed it into law in May 2021. Initial target dates for the launch were the start of the World Series or the NFL season, but we’re well past those dates, and launch has not yet happened. Maryland will tax sports betting at a 15% rate which is expected to generate about $20 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
Despite approval from the House, Senate, and Governor Hogan occurring within just a few months after voters approved sports betting, there has been a significant delay to the state’s launch. The state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) took two months to determine the initial five licenses that would be handed out. The SWARC first met on August 16 and finally handed out approvals for sports betting licenses on November 18.
Part of the reason for the delays was reportedly the state’s legislation aiming to promote diversity and allow businesses owned by minorities and women to get into the predominately white and male sports betting field. After the state launched its legal cannabis market, this was an added point of focus, as the initial licenses were all given to white firms. Of course, part of the cause of delays was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, although other states have seen this process through much faster despite this.
Which Casinos Will Be Available?
The SWARC first approved five different casinos for sports betting in Maryland, including the following:
- Hollywood Casino – Penn National Gaming/Barstool Sportsbook
- Horseshoe Casino – Caesars Sportsbook
- Live! Casino – FanDuel Sportsbook
- MGM National Harbor – BetMGM Sportsbook
- Ocean Downs Casino – TwinSpires Sportsbook
BetMGM Sportsbook has the honor of being the first legal sportsbook to launch in Maryland on Thursday at MGM National Harbor. FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino Maryland is set to open on Friday with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Horseshoe Casino Baltimore will “soft launch” its Caesars Sportsbook on Friday, as well, with Mayor Brandon Scott, Governor Hogan, former NBA player Muggsy Bogues, and former Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith and Adalius Thomas all expected to be in attendance.
In addition, Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool Sportsbook) and Ocean Downs Casino (TwinSpires) are expected to launch their retail sportsbooks by the end of December, per Ryan Butler of Wagers.com. Mobile sports betting isn’t likely to be available until the second half of 2022 or later. Maryland is making available 60 distinct online sports betting licenses, more than any other state has ever issued. Most significant sports betting apps are expected to be available in the state in due time.