Massachusetts regulators have turned away a request from hometown sportsbook operator DraftKings to reconsider its plan to allow retail sports betting to launch ahead of mobile betting operations.
Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) decided on a late January targeted launch for retail operators and a March target for mobile operators, among the reasons being that at least some mobile operators will require a competitive bidding process, whereas the retail licensees are all existing Massachusetts gaming entities.
In a letter to the commission following the decision, Boston-based DraftKings asked the regulator to reconsider its decision and set a universal launch date for all sports wagering.
“This decision to launch mobile sports wagering after retail sports wagering would artificially limit consumer choice and consumer protections, stunt the state’s sports wagering market, and put mobile first operators, such as DraftKings, at a competitive disadvantage compared to others,” the company wrote.
“Allowing certain sports wagering operators to accept wagers before other sports wagering operators creates an unlevel playing field,” the company added.
Although debates over potential launch dates have been among the most contentious before the five-member commission, on this request the commission was united in its desire to keep the existing dates in place.
“I read the letter completely, I didn’t see any new circumstances or any point of clarification that we needed to address,” said Cathy Judd-Stein, chair of the commission, adding that DraftKings' position was taken into account during a forum of potential online applicants last month.
“We all heard the comments, and they were widely reported on,” Judd-Stein said Thursday (October 27). “With one clear exception, the online operators did not object to a staggered start, provided all online operators are launched on the same day.”
“I don’t think we need to revisit this; I think we had a very good conversation back when we voted on this,” added commissioner Bradford Hill. “I continue to look at reports throughout the nation and other places regarding a staggered launch, and I feel very comfortable with what we did was the right thing to do.
“I think people are concerned we might be giving a leg up if we do this staggered launch, I don’t agree with that, not with the reports that I’ve seen.”
Commissioner Jordan Maynard said he preferred to keep the dates in place but admitted he does have concerns about the potential inequity of the situation.
“I am concerned about the equity issues that exist if we do not tie these untethered category 3 [mobile betting] licenses procedures to the category 1 [retail],” Maynard said.
“To be specific, I’m worried about the information that can be gathered at a kiosk at a category 1 that can then be handed off to a tethered category 3 that would perhaps give someone a leg up, and that’s something I would like to address later on as we keep moving through regulations.”
The commission also approved a set of draft application regulations with minor edits on Thursday to begin the process of promulgating emergency sports-betting regulations. The rules are expected to be filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State next week.