Photo: Live! Casino
Retail sports betting launched in Maryland at MGM National Harbor (BetMGM) this week, and on Friday, two more casinos joined the party.
Live! Casino Hotel & Maryland (FanDuel) launched Friday at roughly 9:30 a.m., and a few hours later, Horseshoe Casino (Caesars) debuted its own retail sportsbook.
“This is exciting,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin told Sports Handle shortly after the Live! Casino betting launch. “The vibe, things that are going on, we couldn’t be happier that sports wagering has finally come to the state of Maryland, and we’re kicking it off this weekend.”
Maryland voters approved sports betting through a November 2020 referendum, and in May legislators filled in the details by approving a sports betting bill that was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. Thursday marked the launch of legal retail sports betting in the state.
Former Baltimore Ravens star Ed Reed placed the first bet at Live! Casino in Hanover, taking UFC fighter Dustin Poirier (-164) to defeat Charles Oliveira on Saturday night. Hogan followed with the second bet, taking Navy football (+270) to defeat Army on Saturday.
Today marked the historic first sports bet for @LiveCasinoMD. They were smart to let Hall of Famer Ed Reed do the honors, since he knows a thing or two about making picks. I placed a bet for Navy to #BeatArmy in the @ArmyNavyGame. pic.twitter.com/KjLLwafyrq
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) December 10, 2021
Soon after the 9:30 a.m. launch, casino visitors started placing bets at the site’s betting kiosks. The kiosks and betting counter are located within Sports & Social Maryland, an entertainment and dining facility within Live! Casino. Sports & Social Maryland seats 212 people and has a 100-foot media wall, which shows a variety of sporting events.
“The combination of two powerhouse brands — Live! best known for our premier entertainment venues, and FanDuel for its leading sportsbook — will offer an unmatched experience for sports betting enthusiasts in the state of Maryland,” Rob Norton, president of Cordish Global Gaming and Live! Casino, said in a press release. “The launch of the FanDuel Sportsbook, in the heart of Sports & Social Maryland, has been highly anticipated and will provide our guests with the ultimate fan experience.”
The launch comes ahead of the NFL playoffs, something Hogan and others wanted to see happen.
Hogan placed the first bet at Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, taking Maryland football (-115) to defeat Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl. Hogan was joined at Horseshoe’s ribbon-cutting ceremony by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore native and longtime NBA guard Muggsy Bogues, among others.
“This is what it’s about, bringing more tax revenue to spend on our collective vision for a better and safer Baltimore,” Scott told the crowd gathered at Horseshoe’s Caesars sportsbook. “More people come into south Baltimore to visit and hopefully stay for good.”
Scott also drew a large laugh from the crowd when describing his three plans for placing bets. Scott said he would bet on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to win league MVP and the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. For his third bet, Scott had lower expectations for a local team. Scott wanted to wager on the Baltimore Orioles to finish .500 next season, only to learn that option wasn’t available.
Update: the mayor has been told he can’t bet on the Orioles being .500 next year. Money saved. pic.twitter.com/RPLVj2Vg6P
— Emily Opilo (@emilyopilo) December 10, 2021
Much like at Live! Casino, it didn’t take long for lines to build up at the Caesars betting kiosks from among dozens of patrons. A few employees were stationed nearby to explain operation of the kiosks to those needing help.
Unlike Live! Casino and MGM National Harbor, Horseshoe’s sports bar and viewing area aren’t yet open. Brew Brothers is expected to open in a few weeks, and that sports bar is adjacent to the sportsbook.
With retail sports betting launched, most Marylanders are wondering when mobile betting will come to the state. The exact timeline for online wagering isn’t determined, although lottery officials have hinted at a launch coming in late 2022.
As for additional retail sports betting options, Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool Sportsbook) and Ocean Downs Casino (TwinSpires) were also awarded licenses by the state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) on Nov. 18. While Hollywood Casino and Ocean Downs are behind their peers, they’re expected to launch retail sportsbooks soon.
“We’re optimistic that both of them will be fully vetted, and we’ll issue [their approvals] before December is out,” Martin said.
MGM National Harbor will accept the first bets at its BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge around 12:45 p.m.
Live! Casino and Horseshoe have events planned tomorrow. Hollywood Perryville will start around Dec. 23. No date yet for Ocean Downs. pic.twitter.com/4yK3inguxk
— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) December 9, 2021
On Wednesday, the SWARC also awarded licenses to Riverboat-on-the-Potomac (PointsBet) and Long Shot’s. The two off-track betting facilities are shooting for early 2022 retail betting launches.
“Long Shot’s has yet to identify a facility operator,” Martin said. “You can assume Riverboat may be a little bit ahead in that process, but boy, I’d love to get those folks up and running before the Super Bowl. Obviously before March Madness, but if we can get it done before the Super Bowl, that’d be great.”
Long Shot’s owner Alyse Cohen told Sports Handle Thursday that she can’t yet share any details of a partnership with a sportsbook operator, but expects to do so in the near future.
Bennett Conlin is a sports betting reporter. He began his sportswriting career crafting recaps of family wiffle ball games. He’s covered more meaningful games since those early days, most recently writing about the University of Virginia’s athletic programs for The Daily Progress. Bennett can be reached at email@example.com.
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