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Md. mobile sports betting to launch Wednesday

John Martin, Director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, speaks Tuesday during a news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan announcing the launch of mobile sports betting in Maryland. Betting will open at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

ANNAPOLIS — Marylanders anxious for a side sports bet with their Thanksgiving meal won’t have to head to a sports book.

The long-awaited rollout of mobile sports betting goes live in the state Wednesday at 9 a.m.

“Marylanders have been waiting long enough,” said Gov. Larry Hogan during a Tuesday press conference with John Martin, Director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

“This process took longer than it should have but we’re excited that this launch is in time for fans to place their bets on football, the Thanksgiving Day NFL action, college football rivalry weekend, this week’s slate of NBA games, the 2022 World Cup and this Sunday’s Ravens and Commanders games.”

Starting Wednesday morning, Maryland residents can place bets on professional, college and some amateur athletic contests as well as e-sports and novelty or side bets using one of seven mobile wagering apps. The licensees are part of an initial wave of 10 applicants approved last week by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission.

Maryland’s move to ports wagering has been slow and complicated.

The state missed the boat in 2018 when other states passed laws that made the activity contingent on a decision by the Supreme Court to strike down sports betting laws.

It was two more years before the General Assembly finally sent an amendment to the state constitution legalizing the activity. That change, however, still required lawmakers to come back last year to craft the law and regulations to implement the new industry.

Included in that effort was a desire by lawmakers led by House Speaker Adrienne Jones to ensure that Black and women entrepreneurs could have majority ownership stakes.

But after more than a year of study, regulators learned they could do little more than require applicants for licenses to have partners with at least a 5% share who did not exceed certain personal wealth caps and submit a diversity plan 30 days after a license was approved.

Hogan repeatedly pressured the application review commission to move quickly. He called for the expediting of mobile licenses for 17 businesses guaranteed in-person licenses in the new state law. He also called for mobile sports betting to be in place by September for the start of the NFL season.

Hogan said “it seemed to be just one excuse and one obstruction after another. When it came to getting mobile sports betting up and running they allowed the process to be bogged down in a bureaucratic, political and legal delays that threatened to push back the launch of mobile sports betting all the way past the Super Bowl next year. It was inexcusable and completely unacceptable.”

In the end, only two operations are majority Black or woman-owned: Riverboat on the Potomac and Long Shots in Frederick respectively.

Both ownership groups were specifically guaranteed licenses in the law passed last year.

It is unclear if those two businesses will be the only licensees with majority Black or women owners.

Another 11 applicants await approval but have not been named publicly. Martin, the lottery head, said he hopes to have those applicants and six others seeking retail licenses qualified before Dec. 14 when the application review commission meets again.

Martin said seven of the 10 will be ready to take bets Wednesday after two days of demonstration testing with regulator oversight.

Included in that seven are four casinos — Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore; Hollywood Casino in Perryville; Maryland Live in Hanover; and MGM in National Harbor — as well as Riverboat on the Potomac, an off-track-betting venue; Bingo World in Brooklyn Park and the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

Three licensees — Greenmount Station in Hampstead, Long Shots in Frederick, and the mobile license held by Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder — will not be ready for the initial rollout. Martin said regulators continue to work with those three licensees.

All 10 licensees were part of a group of more than a dozen guaranteed licenses for brick-and-mortar sports betting parlors.

Last December, Hogan placed the first in-person sports bets at a number of casinos around the state. He said Tuesday he hopes to place a bet using one of the apps but declined to say what platform he’d use to avoid “showing favoritism” to any of the licensees.

“I’ve never done it before,” said Hogan. “I’m not the most technology oriented guy so I’m going to have to get someone to help figure out how to put an app on my phone and then use it but maybe I might place a bet on the Ravens or Terps or something just to say I did it.”