BALTIMORE (WJZ) — By a vote of 5-2, a state committee approved sports wagering licenses for five Maryland casinos, joining dozens of other states in legalizing sportsbooks.

The Sports Wagering Application Review Commission approved licenses for the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover, MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Hollywood Casino in Perryville and Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin.

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“We’re excited to move forward, and we’re coordinating closely with the casinos to make sure they finish everything as quickly as they can,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin. “Work has been ongoing, and we’re close. Our target is to launch within 30-45 days, which means Marylanders will be able to bet on the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. We couldn’t be happier about that.”

The casinos will have go through several procedural steps before they are formally issued licenses to begin sports wagering, said Matthew Bennett, an aide to the committee.

We can’t wait you know we’re looking forward to the next couple weeks to start writing bets so hopefully they put the finishing touches on it and we get there,” said Bob Tedesco, Senior Vice President of Operations for Live Casino’s

Some Marylanders were also happy to hear the news that sports betting is one step closer to becoming a reality in their home state.

“I’m excited. We’ve been waiting for it in Maryland here for a long time,” said Perrin Carr.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have legal sportsbooks up and running, including Maryland’s neighbors in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to the American Gaming Association.

Lawmakers in Nebraska and Wisconsin have legalized gambling on sports but facilities for wagering are not yet operational. Two other states, Massachusetts and Ohio, have pre-filed legislation taking up the issue.

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Marylanders approved a ballot question to legalize sports betting during the 2020 election, by a margin of 2 to 1.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission forwarded the applications from five of the state’s six casinos in October. But the state committee that grants final approval to applicants decided not to move forward on their bids, instead asking the five casinos for additional information.

Gov. Larry Hogan expressed his frustration with the committee’s inaction.

“It appears as if the legislature is pressuring the commission to delay things as long as possible,” the governor said on Nov. 3.

One day after the committee’s delay, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission approved partnerships between sportsbook operators and the casinos.

The agreements are:

  • Barstool Sports, partner of Hollywood Casino in Perryville
  • Caesars Sportsbook, partner of Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore
  • FanDuel Sportsbook, partner of Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover
  • BetMGM, partner of MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill
  • TwinSpires, partner of Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin

At that time, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin said sportsbooks could open in Maryland by 2022 if “all goes well.”

“On a daily basis, we get them coming in. They keep walking up to the counter and saying, ‘Is it ready yet?” said Tedesco.

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“Licensing investigations are quite extensive, so we’re continuously communicating with applicants to guide them through the process,” Martin said. “Our Licensing staff makes sure that applicants are aware if something is missing because we’re eager to see them submit all of the necessary information and complete all the steps so that we can find them qualified for licensing, and send the applicants to the SWARC for award.”

Stetson Miller