Maryland commission seeks mobile sports betting license holders, a day after Hogan decries delay in separate application process

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State regulators have announced an expansion of sports wagering in Maryland, launching one part of a process to seek and award mobile sports betting licenses.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which determines if a business or individual meets state standards for a gambling license, began accepting applications Friday for mobile sports betting licenses.

Applicants also must apply separately with the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, which ranks applications and determines if a license approval is in the public interest. That legislative committee, which can award up to 60 mobile licenses, is still developing regulations governing applications and the application itself. It has not offered a timeline for completion.

The gaming control commission’s announcement Thursday came a day after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan complained that the sports wagering commission’s process has been needlessly stalled by a series of bureaucratic delays. In a letter Wednesday to the sports wagering commission, Hogan called for immediate steps to allow mobile betting before the Sept. 8 start of the National Football League’s regular season.

The governor asked the commission to prioritize and award mobile licenses for any retail entities named in the original mobile betting legislation that already have been approved by Maryland Lottery and Gaming and to set a firm and transparent timeline.

“Instead of decisive action to implement the voters’ decision, you have allowed the process to stagnate and become mired in overly bureaucratic procedures that have needlessly delayed the state’s ability to maximize the revenue potential of this emerging industry,” Hogan said in the letter.

John Martin, director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming, acknowledged that each of the two separate investigative processes may not be starting at the same time.

“But it’s always been the plan for them to unfold on parallel tracks,” Martin said in Thursday’s announcement. “Some investigations could take several months, so now is a great opportunity for all potential applicants to get the ball rolling.”

In his letter, Hogan said sports fans are angry and discouraged that they still can’t place bets on mobile devices more than a year after the state approved sports betting in May 2021.

In December, five Maryland casinos began offering sports wagers from a state-approved catalog for various sports and competitive events. State approval of sports wagering at those casinos came in time for the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.

But mobile sports betting tends to draw greater revenue than in-person betting because of the convenience. Hogan said estimates show 80% to 90% of all sports wagers are expected to be made on mobile devices.

In his letter, Hogan asked the commission to use the same approach to mobile licenses that was used to expedite facility licenses awards last fall. The commission had voted that 17 retail entities designated in Maryland’s sports wagering law met Lottery and Gaming licensing qualifications.

Starting Friday, applicants could request access to a Lottery and Gaming Control online system that will complete criminal and financial background investigations. Prospective applicants were able to submit and upload information and documents, and Maryland Lottery staff were available to provide guidance.

“As we await the [Sports Wagering] application, we’ll be able to spend time assisting small businesses that aren’t familiar with the level of investigation that exists in sports wagering,” Martin said.

Potential applicants can get information at the Sports Wagering Licensing page.