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Maryland Legislature Wants to Add Sports Betting Licenses

September 18, 2023

When the Maryland legislature passed sports betting legislation, they opened the door for up to as many as 107 total sports betting operators. With a total of 24 licenses granted to date by the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA), there is at least one legislator who believes the MLGCA could be more aggressive in the approval of new operator licenses.

As a reminder, the approved sports betting legislation allows for 17 licenses to go to businesses like restaurants, sports bars, and local grocery stores. The rest of the licenses are to be allocated as follows: 30 going to retail sportsbooks and the last 60 going to mobile operators.

With only 24 licenses issued to date, the problem is very clear as 93 licenses are still available. That fact has not been lost on Congressman Jason Buckel who confronted MLGCA Chair Randy Marriner about moving forward with a little more zest. It's noteworthy that Marriner also serves on the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which is the state regulatory body that is responsible for approving and issuing licenses.

The Primary Issue Buckel Has With the Licensing Process to Date

Buckel's primary argument does not seem to be unreasonable. While he isn't pressing for more retail and mobile licenses to be issued today, he is concerned that brick-and-mortar businesses have yet to be heard from. With 17 available licenses available for local businesses, he is questioning why none have been issued. After all, a sports betting license should certainly open the door for a business to draw in more customers.

SWARC head Marriner responded to Buckel's concerns by inferring that his agency is not the issue. The real issue seems to be that there has been very little interest in sports betting licenses among local businesses. Currently, the window for licensing on-site sportsbooks or kiosks is currently closed. Buckel thinks now is the time to reopen those windows with the NCAA and NFL regular seasons already underway. It's his belief the success of business-related sportsbooks in Ohio could certainly be duplicated in Maryland.

Is It Possible Regulators Don't Understand the U.S. Sports Betting Market?

At the same meeting between congressional members and the MLGCA, MLGCA Assistant Deputy Director James Butler stated there were reasons the regulator is proceeding with caution. He was quick to point out there has been some unrest within the mobile sports betting community because of ongoing talks about mergers and acquisitions between operators. It might be he was referencing the fact that Fanatics just acquired the U.S. assets of Australia-based PointsBet and the "transfer back" of Barstool Sports back to David Portnoy from Penn Entertainment.

What was most alarming was the comment Butler made about being surprised that 95% of all sports betting handle to date came from mobile sports betting operations. Everyone involved in the U.S. sports betting community is aware that mobile sports betting is dominating every market. It also begs the question, "Why should the domination of mobile sports betting have any influence over the issuing of licenses?"


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