Gov. Larry Hogan wants the state gaming panel to fast-track dozens of mobile sports betting licenses.
In a letter to the state Sports Wagering Application Review Commission, the two-term Republican called for sports wagering to begin by Sept. 8.
“Marylanders have grown frustrated waiting for mobile sports wagering as they have watched it become available in state after state across the country, including our neighboring jurisdictions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. I share their frustration, and I call upon you to immediately take the steps that I have outlined below,” Hogan wrote Tuesday in a letter to the commission.
The date in the governor’s letter coincides with the start of the NFL regular season.
“To make that target date achievable, it is imperative that you immediately accelerate and intensify your efforts,” Hogan wrote.
Today I called on the legislature’s Sports Wagering and Application Review Commission to take immediate actions to launch mobile sports betting in Maryland for the NFL season.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) June 15, 2022
“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 wrote. “Almost two years later, after citizens made their choice, they are still waiting for the mobile component that will define the success of the sports wagering program. Sports fans in Maryland simply want to be able to place bets on their mobile devices — that’s what they voted for, and they are angry and discouraged over SWARC’s inability to make it happen.”
In his letter, the governor called on the panel to set a firm public timeline for mobile sports wagering. He also called for the panel to release a draft of the sports wagering regulations by its next meeting, which is set for Thursday morning.
He also called for expedited approval of licenses including a “first come, first served” rolling approval for mobile applicants.
“Governor Hogan and sports fans across the state are eager to have mobile sports wagering available by the start of the football season — and we share that goal,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin. “We are one piece of a collaborative effort, and we’re doing everything possible to expedite our portion of the work.”
Last week, Martin was asked by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford about the status of mobile betting during a Board of Public Works meeting.
“We continue to work with the Office of the Attorney General and the (Sports Wagering Application Review Commission) in getting the regulations ready for mobile wagering,” Martin told Rutherford. “And I’m optimistic that we will continue to work forward on that. We’re ready to go as soon as we can get the green light from SWARC and the OAG and then we will be in a position, hopefully before the end of the calendar year, to get that much-awaited, long-awaited mobile betting in place properly. “
Rutherford responded that the acronym for the application panel “has become a bad word around here.”
This is not the first time Hogan has expressed frustration with the commission and the pace of issuing licenses.
A year ago, Hogan publicly complained that the commission was moving too slowly in issuing licenses for physical locations including some that were guaranteed licenses in the new law. Those 18 facilities were predesignated because they are already licensed for gambling in Maryland.
The commission soon began issuing those licenses to five of the state’s six casinos — Ocean Downs Casino, Live! Casino, Horseshoe Casino, Hollywood Casino and MGM National Harbor.
The commission is not expecting an application from the sixth casino, Rocky Gap.
Another group of guaranteed licensees are in various stages of the process as of the commission’s most recent meeting in May.
The panel is set to meet again on Thursday.
But the commission has yet to create a process for issuing the more lucrative online licenses. About 60 such licenses would be up for grabs.
The new industry, like medical cannabis, is seen as an opportunity for wealth-building in disadvantaged communities.
During the Board of Public Works meeting, treasurer Dereck Davis said there were “there were a lot of hard feelings, if you will, from what happened with medical cannabis and a number of us (members of the Legislative Black Caucus).
Davis was chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus when sports betting was created
Davis said he and the caucus “were determined that we didn’t want to see that happen with this process. So there was a lot of deliberation, a lot of angst, to ensure that there was a certain amount of equitability and fairness in this particular process that, quite frankly, we didn’t think happened with the medical cannabis process. “
The legislature has mandated the panel ensure equity for minority- and women-ownership. A racial disparity study is being conducted that will guide the commission on the application process and awarding of licenses.
Martin, during the Board of Public Works meeting, said the panel has “shifted our focus to the requirements in statute to get things in place for the racial, ethnic and gender diversity for small businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, to participate. That is a unique effort. There are very little if any other jurisdictions around the country that have imposed that type of structure. So we are working with the law as it was presented to us and working as quickly as we can.”