Why Maryland Regulators Have Heavy Lifting To Do For September Sportsbook Launches

Posted By Derek Helling on July 8, 2021

Any fan of Marvel Comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe is familiar with the command, “Avengers assemble.” While Maryland sports betting regulators may not have the weight of saving the universe from super-powered despots on their shoulders, they are nonetheless ready to assemble with several responsibilities to fulfill on a tight schedule to meet the goal of a Maryland September sports betting launch.

MD Gov. Larry Hogan has made a couple of necessary appointments to complete the roster of MD gambling regulators over the past week. The respective bodies can now set to work in coordination with each other.

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Gov. Hogan appoints final Maryland sports betting regulators

On June 30, Hogan filled several positions pertinent to gambling in the Old Line State. One person, John A. Martin, will wear several hats as they pertain to MD sports betting. Martin is the new the Director of the MD Lottery & Gaming Control Agency.

As such, he essentially is Hogan’s “main man” when it comes to gambling oversight in MD. He answers directly to Hogan and has oversight over all the gaming regulatory bodies in the state. The post had been open since April.

Martin comes to the position after serving the lottery as its managing director and chief revenue officer since 2015. His calendar will be a lot fuller now because Hogan also appointed him as the chair of the recently created Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC).

State law also tasked Hogan with appointing two members of that commission as well. He took care of all those responsibilities in one fell swoop last week.

Hogan’s appointees to the SWARC are Thomas M. Brandt Jr. and Bert Hash Jr. Brandt is a CPA who is also the former chief financial officer of TeleCommunications Systems. In addition, Brandt has served on governing boards for state agencies dealing with state employees’ pensions and retirement plans.

Hash is the former CEO and president of the Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore. With these names now on the roster, the SWARC is complete. Does that mean the members will display super-powered abilities to get MD sports betting apps up and running in record time?

Herculean task lies ahead of recent appointees

The enabling statute in MD puts two separate bodies in charge of regulating sports betting in Maryland. Those are the aforementioned SWARC and the Lottery & Gaming Control Commission (LGCC). Both operate under the oversight of the Lottery & Gaming Control Agency that Martin now leads.

The SWARC’s powers consist of doing exactly as the name suggests, reviewing and deciding on license applications. The law gives all other regulatory responsibilities to the LGCC, including adopting regulations for sports betting. So far, there hasn’t been any publicly visible movement on that front.

However, the statute itself does a lot of the heavy lifting for the LGCC. It lays out who can apply for a license, the fees for licensure, the tax rates for sports betting, and many other items. The regs will still decide some pertinent matters, though, like whether Maryland will require sportsbooks to use official data sources for in-game wagers.

The onus also falls on the LGCC to draft license application forms and get those out. The sooner that can happen, the better, as it’s obviously necessary for interested parties to complete and return them. In order for MD sportsbooks to be ready to accept bets when the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team play their next games, time is also of the essence.

Is the start of the next NFL season still realistic?

It’s definitely getting more unlikely for a Maryland September sports betting launch, ahead of Week 1 of the NFL season. There is an advantage to spreading the duties in this fashion, though. The LGCC can work on finalizing rules while the SWARC works on licensure. That could speed things up as compared to if the LGCC was working on both tasks simultaneously.

Still, the amount of time left makes the NFL playoffs or Super Bowl LVI more realistic. If the LGCC gets license application forms out before the end of July, applicants will probably have until mid- or even late August to complete and return them. That would only give the SWARC a matter of days to review the applications and make decisions on them. Within those same few days, the LGCC would have to quickly inspect license holders’ systems and issue go-live authorizations.

To make Maryland September sports betting a reality by the first regular season game (the 2021 NFL regular season begins Sept. 9), regulators in the state will need to move at a pace that would impress Quicksilver. Bettors in MD now have an idea of exactly who the men and women “behind the mask” would be if that heroic effort pays off.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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