Maryland’s mobile sports betting industry launches Wednesday

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Maryland’s mobile sports betting industry is set to launch Wednesday morning after years of delay, just in time for a bonanza of pro and college soccer games and World Cup soccer action.

Regulators approved seven apps to begin accepting bets anywhere within state lines beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Many companies, including several dominant industry leaders in other states, began offering cash this week to entice customers to sign up. Some have promised $1,000 in free bets to those who lose on their first bet.

The crowded and highly competitive sports betting industry has resulted in companies spending billions on marketing and giveaways rushing to become a favorite with gamblers in new markets. Maryland has placed no limit on the amount of money companies can donate to attract new customers in their first year, state officials said.

Virginia bettors already have a number of options, including some companies that will soon be operating in Maryland as well. DC’s publicly operated platform, the region’s first to launch after the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states could legalize sports gambling, has drawn complaints from consumers.

Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved sports gambling in 2020, but it took more than two years to award licenses that allowed users to bet on their phones, one of the slowest rollouts in the country and the last in the region. Tax proceeds, estimated at $30 million next year, will go to the state’s education fund.

“The process has taken longer than it should have,” the governor said. Larry Hogan (R) said at a news conference, blaming a complex bureaucracy created by state lawmakers. He noted that the new industry could bring in as much as $100 million a year by 2027, money that could have gone elsewhere. “Sports betting is helping keep all these critical dollars in the state of Maryland,” he said.

State lawmakers wanted gambling licenses to go to at least some minority-owned companies, giving underprivileged businesses a foothold in what was a $4 billion industry nationwide last year. But it proved difficult to execute.

Regulators instead decided to require mobile betting operations to have investors without the exceptionally deep pockets that dominate the industry, requiring firms with net worth of $1.8 million or less to own at least 5% of society. A license holder, Maryland Live! Casino, has chosen to make a few longtime employees the owners of their mobile betting operations.

Md. wanted fairness in mobile sports betting. The NFL season will start without it.

With the exception of sports in the Russian or Belarusian leagues, Maryland has approved an extensive list of sporting events and halftime betting. All major US college and professional sports are included, as well as relatively obscure events such as the Croatian International Badminton and video game leagues playing “Call of Duty”.

Punters must be 21 or older to use the apps, and do not need to be a Maryland resident. All winnings are subject to Maryland income taxes, state officials said.

The seven mobile betting companies that accepted bets on Wednesday passed soft-start tests on Monday as regulators made sure the software could handle the airing and that all state-required betting safeguards were in progress.

Each of these companies, which can accept bets online or via smartphone apps, is partnered with an existing regulated physical bookmaker where bets can be placed in person.

They are primarily connected to the state’s casinos, but also to the large Bingo World operation in the Baltimore suburb of Brooklyn Park and the Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County.

The Maryland operators are:

  • Barstool Sportsbook, in partnership with the Hollywood Casino of Perryville.
  • BetMGM, has partnered with MGM National Harbor at Oxon Hill.
  • BetRivers, has partnered with Bingo World in Brooklyn Park.
  • Caesars Sportsbook, has partnered with Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City.
  • DraftKings, has partnered with Crown MD Online Gaming, which plans to open at the Maryland Fairgrounds.
  • FanDuel, partnered with Maryland Live! Casino and hotel in Hanover.
  • PointsBet, has partnered with Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County.

Three other companies have obtained licenses but are not yet ready to launch, said John Martin, director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming. By next football season, Martin said, the state should have 21 floating licenses up and running. State law allows up to 60.

“We’re not done. Our work continues,” Martin said. He encouraged bettors to have a strategy and set a budget. Anyone with a gambling problem can call 800-GAMBLER for help, he said.

Hogan, 66, has promised to place some bets on the Ravens game this weekend, though he joked that he might need someone to help him download an app and figure it out. “I’ve never done that before,” he said.

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