BERLIN — Sports wagering at the Ocean Downs Casino moved closer to becoming a reality on Thursday after the state’s application review commission approved the license for the local casino and four others around the state.
Last month, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) determined the Ocean Downs Casino met the qualification requirements for a sports wagering license. That approval forwarded the applications for sports wagering for five casinos in Maryland, including the Ocean Downs Casino, to the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which is responsible for awarding the gaming licenses.
The SWARC has been criticized somewhat for dragging their feet on approving the first round of sports wagering licenses. In the last week, pressure has come from the applying casinos and even Governor Larry Hogan after SWARC did not approve the applications in October.
On Thursday, however, SWARC voted 5-2 to approve the sports wagering licenses for the five casinos including the Ocean Downs Casino. Other applicants approved by SWARC on Thursday included the Hollywood Casino in Cecil County, the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, the Live Casino in Anne Arundel County and the MGM Casino at National Harbor.
Last year, the General Assembly approved legalized sports wagering in Maryland for as many as 17 potential locations. The divided 5-2 SWARC vote on the five casino locations on Thursday is indicative of a divided commission on the initial round of applications. Those on the commission who were opposed reportedly cited an unfair playing ground by awarding the first batch of licenses to established gaming facilities in the state. The two nay votes reportedly wanted equal consideration for minority-owned and women-owned businesses seeking sports wagering licenses.
SWARC awarding the five sports wagering licenses to the five casinos on Thursday, including the Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin, sets in motion the next step in the process. Earlier this month, the MLGCC approved the sports wagering partners for each of the five casinos. Each of the five casinos qualified for sports wagering will partner with an independent third-party to run the operations. On Thursday, the MLGCC approved the licenses for the third-party operators. For Ocean Downs Casino, the sports wagering partner approved on Thursday is TwinSpires.
Governor Larry Hogan on Thursday said he was pleased SWARC approved the first batch of sports wagering licenses.
“No one has been pushing harder than I have to get sports betting up and running here in the state of Maryland,” he said. “Today, the legislature’s Sports Wagering Applicant Review Commission has finally acted after weeks of delay to approve licenses for five entities. We have been pushing the commission to swiftly approve these licenses and look forward to getting sports betting underway as quickly as possible in time for the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.”