Gaming Commission: Legal MA Sports Betting Not Launching Soon

It does not appear legal MA sports betting will be launching anytime soon.

Bradford Hill of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission expressed frustration at Thursday’s meeting over an inaccurate timeline reported during a local Boston sports radio interview.

During the interview on Toucher and Richa scenario was presented that brick-and-mortar Massachusetts sportsbooks could take bets in three weeks.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen,” Hill said during Thursday’s public meeting. “It was frustrating because of the hundreds of thousands of people that listen to that show.”

Legal MA sports betting launch months away?

Last week, a Massachusetts law panel said it seemed unlikely that the commission would issue temporary licenses to allow for sports betting this upcoming football season.

The panel also said there was interest from the commission in having all online sports betting operators eventually launch at the same time. That would be to avoid giving anyone a competitive advantage out of the gate.

The bill legalizing MA sportsbooks was passed August 1and the commission noted that the median timeline for launch in other states has been eight months following passage of legislation, although some states started in far less time.

Commission preaches patience

Thursday’s public meeting lasted nearly seven hours and covered a myriad of topics. But the message from the MA Gaming Commission was clear.

“We will not compromise on getting this right for anything,” chair Cathy Judd-Stein said, reiterating the commission’s long-held stance focused on integrity and consumer protections.

Nefarious companies could capitalize on delay

Still, Judd-Stein also noted that with no legal way to bet in Massachusetts, customers could be subject to misleading information from unregulated offshore sportsbooks.

“The word is out that you can bet or bet in two weeks,” Judd-Stein said. “This is a public safety matter.”

To that end, emergency regulations were adopted to approve independent testing lab certification and move the regulatory process along. Temporary sports betting licenses and house rules will be discussed during next week’s meeting by the MA Gaming Commission.

Plenty of interest in MA licenses

A total of 42 entities submitted a Notice of Intent to apply for a license to operate Massachusetts sports betting. I have 15 online sports betting licenses, seven of which will be decided during the competitive bidding process.

BetMGM (MGM Springfield), WynnBet (Encore Boston Harbor) and Barstool Sportsbook (Plainridge Park) will access the market via physical casinos. Each of the three Massachusetts casinos allows access for two online sports betting apps each.

BetRivers also said during a recent earnings call it has an MA market access in online and retail. Race tracks Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs each can have one online sportsbook partner.

Boston-based DraftKings is a heavy frontrunner for a license, as are industry leaders FanDuel and Caesars.

How the commission plans to judge applicants

Lawmakers project $60 million in state revenue annually from legalized MA sports betting. State treasurer Deborah Goldberg told the commission that operators should be willing to work with the lottery and cross-promote to keep revenues flowing.

While regulations haven’t been finalized, previously Massachusetts evaluated casinos on the following criteria, much of which could be translated to online:

  • History of regulatory compliance
  • Sports wagering expertise and experience
  • Economic impact to the commonwealth
  • Responsible gaming
  • Technology

It also appears the state will have operators initially show certification from other approved jurisdictions to get up and running. They will then submit results to meet MA standards.

The commission also adopted a sports betting budget proposal of $2.2 million to hire additional positions and potentially bring in an outside consultant as necessary.

Responsible gaming advocates want no in-play MA sports betting

On the responsible gaming front, there will be a push to get diversity studies completed.

“Gambling harm and gambling problems likely to increase but magnitude likely to be modest,” the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) responsible gaming presentation concluded.

One SEIGMA policy recommendation: “Prohibit in-play sports betting which is disproportionately utilized by problem gamblers.” It also suggested a restriction of advertising and celebrity endorsement.