Massachusetts Regulators Explore Sports-Betting Regulations

August 12, 2022
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A day after Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill legalizing sports betting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission began exploring how it will create a process to implement the 225 regulations needed to govern the operation of wagering on games in the state.

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A day after Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill legalizing sports betting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) began exploring how it will create a process to implement the 225 regulations needed to govern the operation of wagering on games in the state.

Near the end of a meeting lasting more than three hours on Thursday (August 11), MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein reminded the industry and observers that they are “committed to a swift and thorough implementation of sports betting in the Commonwealth.”

Judd-Stein did not divulge a timeline or announce a date for when wagering will go live.

“We are all eager for an exact timeline, a development of that is responsibly underway,” she said.

“We have worked with other jurisdictions across the country to learn about best practices and challenges when implementing sports betting. Those conversations continue.”

MGC executive director Karen Wells on Thursday laid out the initial steps they will need to take to get sports betting up and running, from identifying potential applicants for mobile licenses to prioritizing initial regulations to meeting with stakeholders.

The commission will hold its first meeting with stakeholders on August 18.

The discussion will include representatives from Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park, Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs. According to the new law, each of these licensees will be entitled to one physical sportsbook location.

The casinos are also allowed two digital platforms and the racetracks are entitled to one.

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings told analysts during an earnings call on Tuesday (August 9) the company has already constructed a sportsbook at Encore Boston Harbor and expects that retail sports betting will soon be a significant opportunity for property-wide customer acquisition in Boston.

Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorts International, told analysts on August 3 that with the addition of Massachusetts, as well as the potential for California, “we continue to see great opportunity for expansion with BetMGM.”

Although there is a carveout in the law to allow casinos to operate retail wagering with a temporary license while the rest of the industry waits for approval, the MGC has not indicated whether they will be able to launch early or if there will be a universal start date.

The new law allows for seven standalone mobile platforms, and Wells said the plan was to have potential applicants file a notice of intent so they could get “an idea of that the potential is in terms of numbers.”

She added that a page on the commission’s website will be launched soon that will act as a central location for information related to sports betting.

Wells also brought up the topic of licensing vendors Thursday.

“The law doesn’t give specific instructions about licensing vendors for sports-betting operators. However, there is broad language to allow the commission to do so.”

Wells said there is a process to license both gaming and non-gaming vendors. For gaming vendors, such as slot and table manufacturers, the process requires them to submit an application and receive a temporary license while the investigation is completed.

Wells stressed that this process seemed “to work very well during the roll out of casinos” after the passage of the Expanded Gaming Act in 2011 in Massachusetts. Non-gaming vendors are required to register with the state, but regulators can do a more strenuous background check.

Wells said the reason that this is one of the first subjects she is bringing up is that they have had conversations with licensees and as far as timeline it is very helpful for them if these companies need to be licensed to get that going as soon as possible.

“If we go ahead with that temporary license, which we do in gaming, which will help them as well,” she said.

Commissioner Bradford Hill agreed with her proposal and suggested moving forward with developing the licensing regulations for vendors.

“In my comments that we made last week I think I made it very clear that I don’t want to see the Massachusetts Gaming Commission lower any standards of any type during this process,” Hill said. “I think moving forward we are developing regs that should mirror those on casinos is appropriate.”

“I wanted to make sure the vendors that are coming here are licensed in a way that we can be proud off,” he said.

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