Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Wants Mobile Sports Betting Operational in Time for NFL
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), like so many state residents who wish to gamble on sports legally over the internet, has grown impatient with state regulators tasked with issuing licenses for the emerging industry.
The governor wrote the legislature’s Sports Wagering and Application Review Commission (SWARC) this week urging them to expedite their processes to allow mobile sports gambling to begin as quickly as possible.
It has been nearly two years since Maryland voters resoundingly approved sports wagering in November 2020, and well over a year since I signed HB 940 into law in May 2021. 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 told SWARC.
Hogan conceded that the ongoing delay in the agency issuing qualified applicants their mobile sports betting privileges is largely because of the “overly complex” sports betting bill the legislature passed. But the governor says it’s time that the sports betting panel more heavily values the people of Maryland instead of appeasing the “special interest groups and organizations” HB 940 seeks to include in the expanded gaming.
More than a year after Hogan formally legalized sports betting in the Old Line State, legal sports gambling remains confined to five physical sportsbook locations, all of which are located inside casinos. Hogan points to the fact that more than 80% of the betting action in states that have both retail and online betting legal occurs over the internet.
With mobile ops remaining on hold, Hogan says the state is missing out on millions of dollars in associated tax revenue. The Republican adds that many residents are venturing outside the state to place their legal wagers on their mobile devices in neighboring Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Each of those states has legal online sportsbooks operational.
No sport is more popular with bettors than NFL football. And in Maryland, it’s the Baltimore Ravens that generate the most excitement among state residents.
Hogan says SWARC should do everything in its power to make sure legal mobile sportsbooks are available in time for the NFL regular season, which kicks off on September 8.
Maryland’s sports betting law passed by the General Assembly places considerable focus on minority- and women-owned small businesses. Lawmakers want to allow not only the state’s six casinos but also a diverse group of entities to engage in the expanded gaming.
Politicians sought equity in Maryland’s sports betting bill, but Hogan says that goal should not impede or significantly delay access for Marylanders to legal online sportsbooks.
The mobile sports wagering marketplace is extremely capital-intensive and highly competitive (high-risk, low-margin), and dominated by only a few companies,” Hogan continued in his SWARC letter. “Setting up an arbitrary points system or setting unachievable minority equity ownership goals will likely only hurt those entities you are trying to help.
“Our state and its citizens deserve clear and definitive action — not endless bureaucratic roadblocks. Approve mobile sports wagering license applications on a rolling basis,” Hogan declared. “I am calling on SWARC to act now by prioritizing the awarding of mobile licenses for any of the retail entities … that have already been found qualified [to operate in-person sports betting].”
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