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After lengthy process, Md. accepting applications for mobile sports betting licenses

Maryland gaming regulators are now accepting applications for mobile sports betting licenses after delays in devising rules for the approval process. (AP File Photo/Charles Krupa)

State gaming officials Tuesday announced they have started accepting licenses for mobile sports betting in Maryland.

As many as 60 mobile licenses are up for grabs. Another 30 licenses for physical locations are also available.

“This is fantastic news,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin. “We know sports fans are eager to have mobile wagering, and we also know that it will substantially increase the contributions to education funding, so we’re eager, too. We’ve been doing everything we can to have it launch before the end of the year, and now we have a good chance to make that happen.”

Gaming experts and officials expect the mobile licenses will be the most lucrative in the fledgling industry.

“Maryland Lottery and Gaming has been hard at work on background investigations,” Martin said. “A number of businesses that are planning to apply for mobile licenses have already submitted information to get their investigations started, and our licensing staff will continue guiding them through the qualification procedures. We’re focused on expediting our part of the process so mobile betting can start as soon as possible.”

Officials were able to start taking applications after a legislative panel approved proposed regulations governing the application process on Friday. That approval came hours after gaming officials amended the proposed rules to require that each applicant for the competitively awarded license submit a diversity plan. That plan must be submitted within 30 days of being awarded a license.

But lawyers said that while those plans are required and will be public, deficiencies wouldn’t result in financial penalties or the cancellation of a license “because the license has already been awarded.”

The diversity plan requirement may be only a first step in what is expected to be a greater effort to ensure racial and gender equity in licensing.

A study to determine if other measures are needed has yet to be completed.

The long-awaited announcement comes 10 months after the state awarded its first five licenses. All went to five of the state’s six casinos for physical betting parlors.

To date, the state has awarded roughly a dozen licenses to physical locations. State law designated some licenses to go to businesses already licensed by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. That list included all six casinos; Laurel and Pimlico racetracks; several off-track betting locations, including at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium; and two large bingo parlors in Anne Arundel and Calvert counties.

Of the state’s six casinos, only the Rocky Gap facility in western Maryland has opted not to apply.

Applicants will have until Oct. 21 to apply for either a mobile or retail sports wagering license. Those applicants have an additional 30 days to supply materials required for background checks.

Gaming officials said they could need up to 45 days to review each application. State lottery officials will have to recommend qualified applicants to the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission for final approval. 

The timeline means the state will not have mobile sports betting for the opening of the NFL season on Thursday. Gov. Larry Hogan, a second-term Republican, has repeatedly chided the state review commission for not speeding up the process in order to take mobile bets by Sept. 8.

“After having to overcome numerous bureaucratic hurdles from the legislature’s commission, we’re finally seeing some progress on mobile betting,” said Hogan in a social media post. “I am going to keep holding everyone’s feet to the fire until this is up and running. Marylanders have waited long enough.”