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Maryland’s Sport Betting Wagons Are Rolling

In the film Far and Away, one of the classic mythic moments in the history of the US western expansion is depicted when thousands of prospective farmers, horses, and wagons line up for the Oklahoma land rush. Like the starting line at a marathon, only on an epic scale, at the allotted hour the flag goes down on an almighty land grab.

So with the signing into law of the legislation that will allow sports betting in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan was similarly letting the flag drop on a race for market share possibly like no other seen so far in the regulated US market. 

The reason? Unlike other states that have so far got to open up to sports betting, the Maryland legislation will open up licensing to a much wider number of market participants, possibly up to 100 including up to 60 mobile-only licensees.

Not only that, but the bill also authorizes a system of land-based licensing that could allow for over 30 new retail operators to take to the field. This is in addition to the licenses that will be doled out to the state’s six casinos, two main racetracks, and three professional sports stadiums.

Even before the legislation was passed, operators have clearly been making preparations for the expected rush to market. Back in December last year, Penn National Gaming opted to buy back the Hollywood Perryville Casino property from its long-term REIT partner Gaming and Leisure Properties. The $31.1m purchase was explicitly completed in order to give the Penn-owned Barstool Sportsbook a platform for expansion in the state.

Safe Harbor

Of course, having an already established land-based presence in any state is a huge advantage, particularly when it comes to activating an existing player database such as all the big casinos in Maryland will own.

But it will take more than a player loyalty scheme to truly establish an operator in what is likely to be a huge marketing bun fight and it is interesting to note the other moves that were made in the immediate wake of the legislation hitting the statute books.

Central to two pieces of news last week was the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. As has been obvious, the extent to which sports teams and leagues have embraced regulated sports betting in the past three years since the repeal of PASPA – a move we should remember they heavily opposed – has been nothing short of revelatory.

In this respect, we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the Ravens have already signed a multi-year sports-betting partnership deal with BetMGM that will involve signage and an integrated digital and social media presence.

Talking about the deal, Ravens Chief Sales Officer Kevin Rochlitz said that fan engagement was the primary reason for embarking on the partnership. “When we began the process of carefully identifying sports betting and digital gaming partners, one of our top priorities was finding unique ways for Ravens fans to further engage with the team.”

On the other side of the deal, meanwhile, there is huge enthusiasm for marrying betting brands with large sporting franchises. “We see huge value in partnering with individual teams in states in which sports betting is on the cusp of going live,” a BetMGM spokesperson told legal-Sportsbetting.com. “Along with great branding opportunities and other items, it truly differentiates the BetMGM brand from competitors.”

“We’ve also got a great partner in MGM National Harbor and are looking forward to working with the team there to fully capitalize on this new opportunity to introduce sports fans to sports-betting in Maryland.”

This is unlikely to be the only deal signed by either party. No doubt BetMGM is already talking to the other two major league franchises in the state, MLB’s Orioles and the Washington Football Team.

Meanwhile, the Ravens (along with the New York Jets) also announced this week a partnership deal with Sportradar which will see the deployment of the supplier’s ad:s data-driven marketing application that allows for content-driven programmatic advertising campaigns.

“Legalized sports betting presents new and unique opportunities for teams, as well as betting operators, and the Jets and Ravens are taking a step in raising the value of their brands for their respective betting sponsors,” said Mike Smith, Head of Advertising, US, at Sportradar.

“Our end-to-end platform provides each team a number of levers they can pull to ensure they’re delivering a personalized experience based on their distinct fanbases while maximizing their marketing investment.”

The indications are that when the market launches in September in time for the beginning of the next NFL season, more deals involving multiple operators will be signed, sealed, and delivered. One thing is all but guaranteed; no Maryland resident will be unaware of the advent of legalized sports betting in the state by then. Unless, of course, they intend on living under a rock.