Maryland panel still can’t clear way for first sports betting licenses

Sports bettors in Maryland hoping to put some cash on their favorite football team as soon as this weekend will have to travel somewhere else to do so.

A two-and-a-half hour hearing of the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission ended with the panel taking no action on the five applications for sports betting licenses that have been already vetted and signed off on by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. In fact, more than two hours of the time was spent in closed session where the board was involved with extensive legal discussions.

Last month, the MD LGCA ruled Maryland Live!, MGM National Harbor and Horseshoe Casino, as well as Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs Casino, met all the requirements needed to begin taking sports wagers.

It wasn’t much of a surprise. Those venues have been operating other forms of gambling around the state for years, and regulators were familiar with their operations and ownership already.

“There are complex legal issues affecting our actions,” noted chairman Tom Brandt, who said legal advice from the state attorney general’s office was sent to members around 9 p.m. the night before.

When the hearing resumed, the board voted to ask the five applicants to submit supplemental information about the ownership of the groups they’re aligned with. They hope to get that information within the next week, and then meet again on the morning of Nov. 18.

“I think we’ve gotten our legal advice to the max,” Brandt said. “These marathons should … be behind us.”

The hope is that the panel will be able to act on the applications by then, but if the process has shown anything, it’s that there’s no guarantee that will happen. Showing frustration with the plodding pace of the process, Brandt conceded it hasn’t been as smooth as he’d like.

“I’ve done my best,” he said at the end of the meeting. “This has been challenging.”

“We’re doing God’s work,” he added at the end of the meeting.

Several other venues have also had licenses set aside for them under the law that was passed earlier this year, though they have yet to be vetted and deemed to meet the state’s requirements for a license.

Even after all of this, licenses for mobile wagers are still months away from any consideration in Maryland.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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