Massachusetts gaming regulators continue to work through a selection process that could be one of the more interesting strategic choices for operators during the U.S. sports betting boom of recent years.
The state is one of only a handful to feature a capped number of untethered licenses that could leave license applicants on the outside looking in, and even fewer to pair untethered licenses with mobile licenses that are linked to land-based properties.
Massachusetts effectively has up to 16 mobile licenses, with nine being linked to land-based properties — each of the state’s three casinos has up to two online skins each, and three off-track betting facilities also have one mobile skin each.
The remaining seven-license maximum can be doled out by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) through a competitive process.
“In determining whether a particular applicant will be awarded an Untethered Category 3 License, the commission shall take into consideration the variations between the applicants as they relate to any other Sports Wagering License Applicants or licensees, and how granting any particular combination of applications would maximize overall benefits and minimize overall harms or the risk of harms to the Commonwealth,” reads a draft regulation currently being considered by the commission.
“That is the general standard that we are setting out for commission review,” said Todd Grossman, general counsel for the commission, during a public meeting of the MGC on Thursday (October 20).
“Of course, you evaluate all the criteria, but when you distill it, that is essentially the high-level standard you would be looking at in determining how to select the up to seven untethered Category 3 licenses,” Grossman said.
The commission has yet to outline any sort of scoring metric for the process.
Earlier this week, the commission received 23 scoping surveys from companies that would be pursuing the 16 mobile licenses, meaning if each company that submitted a survey response applies for a license, some will be left out.
In Virginia, where licenses were initially capped at 12 with first preferences for prospective casino operators and the National Football League’s Washington Commanders, some companies sought to forego the competitive process by partnering with the first-preference entities, and Massachusetts land-based operators could see a similar benefit.
The question, of course, is whether mobile operators would rather pursue the untethered license to avoid paying market-access fees to a land-based operator if they feel they are likely to be selected on their own merits.
After going through application regulations during Thursday’s meeting, commissioners agreed that some minor revisions are needed, which could be approved as early as next Thursday (October 27).
The full application for operators, along with a $200,000 application fee, is due November 21.