Massachusetts Targets Retail Sports Betting By Super Bowl, March For Mobile

October 10, 2022
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Massachusetts regulators have agreed to target a late January opening of retail sportsbooks at casinos before an early March mobile sports-betting launch.

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Massachusetts regulators have agreed to target a late January opening of retail sportsbooks at casinos before an early March mobile sports-betting launch.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 4-0 with one abstention on the targeted timelines, although the commission could not agree on specific target launch dates.

Karen Wells, the commission’s executive director, recommended the provisional timelines on Friday (October 7), one day after a marathon meeting during which commissioners failed to reach a consensus.

“There’s much less risk on the retail side because we have certainty on those operators, we know who they are and can work with them,” Wells said.

The agreed-upon timelines cover the state’s Category 1 licenses, which will allow the state’s three casinos to offer land-based wagering, and Category 3 licenses, which permit mobile sports wagering platforms that are either linked to a casino or an off-track wagering facility, or are one of seven untethered operators selected by the commission through a competitive process.

Wells said the commission would need more information on the readiness of the state’s permitted Category 2 licensees, which cover off-track wagering facilities offering land-based sports betting, before setting a date for them.

She noted that all three Massachusetts land-based casinos largely have their sportsbook areas built out already and the commission has already begun to work on permitting for those areas.

Commissioners Bradford Hill and Jordan Maynard sought target dates that would allow sports betting to be available in time for the Super Bowl in February and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March.

But those proposals were unanimously endorsed by the five-member gaming commission.

“We are still operating under the timelines of a couple of commissioners who have made those timelines clear and have essentially directed that the timeline be rushed to accommodate those sports events,” said commissioner Nakisha Skinner, who was the lone commissioner to abstain. “And I am simply not okay with that.”

Before its vote, the commission made clear that the targets are flexible and can be delayed if the commission runs into issues during the rollout, including receiving a high number of applications for mobile licenses that would take longer to process.

Part of the reason for not offering specific dates was an attempt to avoid launching shortly before the Super Bowl or the NFL’s conference championship games, based on feedback from casino operators that doing so could lead to large crowds at the casinos trying to place bets within a tight window.

Wells said that with the timeline, the commission would have a 30-day public review process on applications, followed by a 45-day certificate of operations process, although she acknowledged those estimates would come with the caveat that the commission does not know how many applications it will receive.

During Thursday’s meeting, Wells estimated that staff was expecting about 35 operator applicants in total, following a notice of intent process from August that saw the commission receive 42 responses from companies expressing interest in applying for licensure.

The next step for prospective operators will be to submit responses to a scoping survey also released on Friday by the commission.

The survey includes details on ownership interest in the company, licensing history, and partnership agreements with other current or prospective operators. The survey is a required part of the sports-betting application, and is due by October 17.

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