Maryland signed legal sports betting into law back in May. And since August, it has been all systems go as they try to accelerate the implementation of an industry they left previously untouched. This process by which they've sped things up has led to some interesting questions and revelations. Let's discuss them, shall we?
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After years of deliberation, Maryland made it clear in May that they they were going to enter the legal sports betting industry, like so many other places in the United States before them. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, they're only more committed to it. Maryland is actually pushing to get their sports betting industry up by the NFL playoffs.
Many don't quite understand this part of the gambling equation. They assume states can legalize sports betting and essentially implement it overnight. It doesn't work that way.
Gaming companies need to be reviewed so they can do business in the state. Licenses need to be handed out. Physical locations need to be built or modified to meet the pending demand. It can take an extremely long time from legalized sports betting to go from theory to ongoing practices. Maryland's attempt to be fully operational within a year is ambitious.
Can they get it done?
Legal Sports Betting is Coming to Maryland—and Fast
At this point, you might be asking different variations of the same, simple question: Why?
Why is Maryland so intent on getting their sports-betting operations up in a hurry? Why are the NFL playoffs their target date? They've gone so long without legal sports betting available in volume. What's the difference now?
In short, the coronavirus pandemic changed the way a lot of local governments view gambling. Their economies were heavily impacted over the past two years or so. Looking at other states that already have legal sports betting, these locales now see a path to generating more revenue.
Maryland, specifically, doesn't need to scour the country for a success story. New Jersey, one of its neighboring states, has had full-fledged sports betting beyond just Atlantic City for some time. The result? They now do more annual betting revenue than the state of Nevada, which, as you know, houses Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world. That's a huge deal.
Targeting the NFL playoffs as the official opening is likewise smart. Betting is rampant during postseason football, from the wild card round on through to the Super Bowl. Maryland is merely trying to ensure they will have the opportunity to capitalize on that business rather than see it go to casinos and sportsbooks in other states or on other shores.
How is Maryland Expediting Sports Betting?
Among the most time-consuming tasks for a state after legalizing sports betting is to identify and then license brick-and-mortar betting sites and sportsbooks. The process can take over a year given the sheer number of applications and competition.
Maryland is addressing this extended timeline by issuing temporary licenses to no-brainer candidates, most of which are already somewhat operational within the state. The current list of recipients covers 17 providers, a group made up of casinos, race tracks, off-track betting locations and professional sports stadiums.
There is, of course, an upshot to this method. By consuming themselves with this initial gaggle of sports-betting operators, Maryland is not presently ready to accept or review applications from the remaining 30 brick-and-mortar licenses and 60 mobile licenses it has available.
For the state, this doesn't necessarily mean much. For those hoping to nab one of those licenses, it means a whole lot.
Impact of Maryland's Sports-Betting Acceleration
Other candidates for a sports betting license in Maryland have been quick to point out that the 17 initial operators will be given a head start in setting up their businesses, locations and overall practices. This, in turn, puts the remaining applicants at a disadvantage, since they will have to play catch-up to already-operational betting providers.
On top of that, because many of the betting providers from the next block of applicants could be first-time license-seekers, it has been argued that they're the ones who actually need the head start rather than the places who have already been issued temporary licenses.
The local government and gaming commission has largely scoffed at this notion. They similarly reject the sentiment that quickening the process for a select few will wind up harming their overall sports-gambling business. And to be honest, they're probably right.
Even with the somewhat lofty taxes on revenues imposed, sports betting remains one of the most lucrative industries on the planet. Gambling providers are unlikely to opt out of a potential market just because they're not given preferential approval from the jump.
Will Maryland have Sports Betting by the NFL Playoffs?
Given the approximate start date of the 2021 NFL playoffs, Maryland is targeting December to open up their sports-betting operations. As of this writing, that gives them less than three months to get everything underway.
Initially, it feels like that's not possible. But again: These aren't normal circumstances. Had Maryland not installed any special approval processes, we'd be more hesitant to say they'll get it done. However, they have both created an early licensing procedure and already issued them.
Additionally, many of the recipients will have no trouble equipping themselves for a heavier sports-betting load in a matter of months. Casinos and professional sports teams are in the business of dealing with nine figures or more of revenue and operating costs. They have the means to act quickly—and Maryland has given them the agency to do so.
Check out this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide where to place your bets when you're unable to head to a casino or physical sportsbook: