Massachusetts Regulators Still Can’t Decide When To Launch Sports Betting
During Thursday’s committee meeting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) failed to institute a launch date for mobile and retail sports betting in Massachusetts.
It remains unclear if the Commission favors authorizing different start dates for retail and online sportsbooks or a universal timeline. The inability to decide further complicates matters and makes launching before the 2022 Super Bowl unlikely.
No Massachusetts sports betting till 2023?
The topic of discussion during Thursday’s meeting centered around two items. One was starting retail sports betting in January 2023 and the other, launching mobile wagering in February 2023.
“I am very concerned about the rate of our decision-making,” Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said. “I am very concerned abou t our ability to move forward.”
Commission member Brad Hill urged colleagues to take one vote on staggering the launch of each version of sports betting.
“I need to take a vote today that category one, unless something comes before us that is just so outrageous it can’t get done, that we’re going to be able to place a bet on the Superbowl,” Hill said. “I need two votes today and I would like to do two votes, one on the staggered launch, two, setting up a timeline for category one to be able to accept bets.”
MA gaming law
Massachusetts sports betting law created three betting categories.
Category one permits betting at licensed casinos. Category two is for racetracks and simulcasting facilities, and category three deals with online operators.
Although she agrees customers should be kept in mind, Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said regulators are responsible for maximizing benefits while minimizing harm to the consumer.
“I am concerned about, and I will say aggressive because I think this is an aggressive timeline, more specifically, the conversation we’ve just been having about suitability, it appears to be a decision that was made for purposes of this timeline without a fulsome five-person commissioner conversation,” she said.
Temporary license issue
One issue the MGC is still trying to navigate revolves around temporary licenses for online sportsbooks.
The statute currently allows the Commission to grant an infinite number of temporary licenses so long as an operator pays the licensing fee and meets other qualifications. However, a temporary license is only suitable for one year.
The law also caps the number of permanent licenses not connected to a casino at seven. This means, if a temporary license holder doesn’t partner with a casino, they must stop taking bets after a year should they fail to secure a permanent license.
Some of the possible solutions include:
- Providing a mechanism for temporary licensees to gain permanent approval
- Expanding the limit on permanent licenses
- Removing the distinction between permanent and temporary licenses
For now, it appears the Commission is solely focused on creating a timeline that might take several meetings to decide.
“So many of these things are so intricately intertwined. I am struggling with votes today for that reason,” O’Brien said. “I second what [Commisioner Nakisha Skinner] says in terms of anticipation and frustration, and I acknowledge what you’re saying about sequence, but for me, a lot of this is I need to get through the agenda.”