Massachusetts gaming regulators began to offer some clarity Thursday (November 10) on how a third category of sports betting licenses, those belonging to off-track simulcast facilities, will be rolled out as part of the state’s ongoing launch process.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) agreed to accept applications for category 2 licenses, which govern horseracing tracks and off-track simulcast facilities on a rolling basis.
To date, the state only has two such facilities, Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs, which have both submitted scoping surveys for category 2 licenses, which would allow the companies to offer in-person wagering, as well as offer one online sports betting skin.
A third entity, Great Meadowbrook Farm, has a pending application to offer live racing in the state as part of a plan to construct a racetrack and has submitted a scoping survey for a category 2 sports betting license.
Unlike category 1 licenses, which cover the state’s three casinos, and category 3 licenses, which are mobile betting licenses, the commission had yet to set a timeline for when the category 2 licenses would launch, citing uncertainty among the prospective licensees themselves.
“That wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet,” said Karen Wells, the commission’s executive director.
Applications for category 1 and category 3 licenses must be submitted to the commission by November 21, whereas the commission agreed to accept the category 2 applications on a rolling basis.
“My understanding…is there’s not an expectation that the application would be submitted on [November] 21,” Wells said.
“Given that they are presumptive licensees under the statute, and it is not a competitive process for a category 2 license, that does not seem to be problematic in any way, it just impacts the timeline and our scheduling.”
Bruce Barnett, an attorney representing Suffolk Downs, said the company was still negotiating with potential sports wagering partners.
“Because of strategic and competitive sensitivities, we don’t feel like we can give a lot of detail about exactly what’s happening…but we’re moving forward,” Barnett said.
“But as Karen [Wells] said, we’re not going to be in a position to have that operator identified…to present anything resembling a full application for the November 21 deadline.”
Steve Eichel, an attorney representing Raynham Park, asked the commission whether, with the rolling applications, a mobile licensee who had a contractual agreement with one of the off-track facilities would be able to begin operating before a category 2 license had been granted, which commission staff appeared to shoot down.
“It’s the category 2 license that triggers the ability for the tethered category 3 to operate,” said Todd Grossman, the commission’s general counsel. “So if you don’t have a category 2 license, any tethered category 3 couldn’t begin operating.”
No specific timetable was given by either the prospective applicants or the commission as to a targeted timeframe for applications to be submitted.
Separately, the commission will hold a roundtable discussion Monday morning (Nov. 14) regarding sports betting advertising and media.
The topic of advertising has been a frequent source of debate in Massachusetts both at the legislative and regulatory levels over several years of sports betting conversation.
“I think we'll get we'll definitely have a good conversation,” said Cathy Judd-Stein, chair of the commission. “I've encouraged those who are participating that we'd love the idea of them engaging in organic conversation."
“We have a lot to learn,” she added. “That should help inform our thinking on the regs for advertising.”