Hogan: Delay in approving licenses could kill sports wagering

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission’s delay in approving betting licenses for casinos could “kill the entire deal.”

The SWARC met Wednesday for the first time since September but spent more than two hours in a closed-door session before reconvening. The commission immediately passed a motion to put off approval of five casino licenses already vetted by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

The committee is asking the applicants for supplemental ownership information but no further explanation was given. A meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 18 to consider the applications again.

Hogan said Wednesday during a news conference he didn’t have the details on the closed-door meeting and called the situation “frustrating” when asked about the SWARC’s decision.

“If, in fact, they don’t act immediately and approve those, and if the Legislature has their way in violating the law, it’s going to be at least a year or more before anyone gets the ability to do gambling in Maryland … and potentially it could kill the entire deal,” Hogan said. “It’s a problem, and I’m sure they are going to be sued by all the people whose licenses have already been approved.”

Commission Chair Thomas Brandt said the commission had issues to discuss with attorneys, including representatives from the Maryland attorney general’s office. He promised a shorter meeting when the commission reconvenes Nov. 18.

“I think we’ve gotten legal advice to the max,” Brandt said.

Maryland voters approved sports wagering in November 2020, and Hogan signed a bill May 18 passed by lawmakers in April. It requires the Lottery Commission to vet the licenses and the SWARC to approve them.

“Obviously, the voters overwhelming voted for sports betting, the Legislature passed the bill,” Hogan said. ”They crafted legislation. They passed a law they seem to be ignoring.”

State officials initially said sports wagering could be in place when the NFL season began in September. The delays by the SWARC have halted plans and it is unknown when it will begin.

The commission must approve the casinos before it can approve mobile betting companies, according to the law.

In a social media post last month, Hogan called on the SWARC to approve the licenses so that residents could bet on the NFL games and March Madness. The NFL regular season ends Jan. 9, and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 13.

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