Two years after Maryland voters approved expanding the state’s gambling industry to include sports betting, mobile wagering apps will go live on Wednesday.
“Marylanders had been waiting long enough,” said Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, on Tuesday during a State House news conference to announce the final details of the launch.
But now, gamblers don’t need to wait much longer. Here’s key information about mobile sports betting in Maryland.
When can I place bets on sports using my phone?
Seven online sportsbooks will launch at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
How many apps are there?
Initially, seven online sportsbooks will launch on Wednesday. Though many of the apps have familiar national brand names, they are all affiliated with local investors and businesses, including casinos and off-track betting facilities.
The first seven are:
- Barstool Sportsbook (operator for PENN Maryland/Hollywood Casino in Perryville)
- BetMGM (operator for Maryland Sports/MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill)
- BetRivers (operator for Bingo World in Brooklyn Park)
- Caesars Sportsbook (operator for Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore)
- DraftKings (operator for Crown MD Online Gaming)
- FanDuel (operator for Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover)
- PointsBet (operator for Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County)
Three more businesses have been approved for licenses but told regulators that they wouldn’t be ready to launch right away. They could come online in the coming weeks:
- Betfred (operator for Long Shot’s in Frederick)
- BetParks (operator for Greenmount Off Track Betting in Hampstead)
- Fanatics (operator for the Washington Commanders football team in Landover)
Eleven more companies have applied for mobile sports betting licenses and are under review. Ultimately, state law allows for up to 60 mobile sports betting apps, and additional licenses will be considered on a rolling basis.
Can I use any app? Can I use multiple apps?
Yes and yes. A bettor can use any and all apps they like.
Are there limits on using the apps?
The apps licensed in Maryland can only be used within the physical boundaries of the state. Geofencing prohibits using the apps across state lines, and one of the final checks before the apps could go live was to make sure the geofencing works.
So you’re out of luck if you’re traveling to a no-sports-betting state for Thanksgiving and want to use your Maryland-based apps. Security features prevent gamblers from using a virtual private network to try to trick the app into thinking they’re in Maryland.
What’s the deal with the free money offers?
These are legitimate. All of the apps are allowed to offer free bets to entice gamblers to sign up.
The app operators have been saturating social media, TV and radio airwaves with free play offers, with some requiring a wager as small as $5 to receive $200 in free bets.
For the first 12 months of operation, sports betting apps are allowed to give unlimited free play promotions, according to Seth Elkin, a spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
After the first 12 months, apps are limited to spending a maximum of 20% of their profits on free play promotions.
What kind of bets are allowed?
It’s up to each app to decide which types of bets they’ll take, so long as they fall within guidelines set by the state.
The state has approved numerous types of possible bets, most of them related to professional sports, but also college sports, motor racing and Olympic- and world championship-level sports.
Want to bet on mixed martial arts? You can do that. Into handball, floorball or netball? Betting on those sports is allowed, too.
Betting on esports (think “Call of Duty” or “Overwatch” tournaments) is allowed, as is betting on competitive eating, such as the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Independence Day.
There’s no betting on youth or high school sports.
Why did it take so long?
It’s been a lengthy process to get to this point. The impetus for Maryland to consider allowing sports gambling was a Supreme Court decision in 2018 that struck down a federal law that had effectively outlawed betting on sports in most states.
Maryland state lawmakers decided to send the issue of sports gambling to voters in 2020, and Marylanders overwhelmingly approved, 67% to 33%.
But the state ballot question was a broad one, and did not lay out any of the specifics regarding licenses, locations, taxation or regulation. So state lawmakers spent much of their 2021 legislative session ironing out those details. A key priority was to be sure that minority- and woman-owned businesses would be able to have meaningful participation in this expansion of the gambling industry.
By December 2021, the first in-person sports gambling operations got up and running. Eight facilities currently offer in-person sports betting: five casinos, Bingo World, Riverboat on the Potomac and Greenmount Off Track Betting.
And it took almost another year to approve the first licenses for mobile betting.
Does sports betting fund education?
Yes. The state’s cut from sports gambling is 15% of the taxable win, with most of the money earmarked to fund enhanced programs for public schools through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund. A portion also goes to the state’s Problem Gambling Fund.
From the launch of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in December 2021 through October of this year, the education fund received $5.42 million, while the problem gambling fund received at least $885,195.
Once the sports gambling industry gets fully up and running and all licenses are awarded, the state expects its share to be $25 million to $30 million per year. That revenue could climb to $100 million per year by 2027, Hogan said.
What about problem gambling?
With gambling now in the palm of your hand and becoming increasingly accepted socially, there’s a very real concern that there could be an increase in addictive and financially destructive gambling.
All apps are required to have settings to allow users to limit how much money or how much time they spend gambling on sports.
“We encourage all who choose to participate in mobile sports wagering to have a game plan, have some fun, set a budget and stick to it,” said John A. Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
A portion of the state’s share of sports gambling profits goes toward the state’s problem gambling fund. There’s also a hotline: 1-800-GAMBLER.