In the two months since the Massachusetts General Court legalized sports betting in New England’s most populous state, its gaming commission has met with stakeholders, wrestled with an issue created by legislative language, and held a lot of public meetings.
On Friday, the agency released a flow chart showing what it had accomplished since Gov. Charlie Baker signed sports wagering into law on Aug. 10. Besides the standard workload of developing regulations, including creating a licensing process, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has been trying to figure out how to best manage a bit of a mess left to it by the state legislature.
The new law allows for seven stand-alone digital wagering platforms, which means that companies like Boston-based DraftKings or rival FanDuel could operate independently and without a casino partner. But the law does not cap the number of temporary digital licenses the regulator could issue. It’s confounding and has led to lots of discussion, including a stakeholder meeting in late September, where operators said they’d never seen anything like it and were mostly not prepared to enter a market on a temporary license, only to learn months later they they are not among those approved for a permanent license.
“At a public roundtable with stakeholders from companies that filed Notice of Intent forms held on September 22, the MGC heard directly about the issue of temporary licenses,” the MGC wrote on its website Friday. “Most companies agreed that the way the law is written presents an untenable situation. Nearly universal was the desire to see a workable temporary license structure set up for those that, after meeting initial suitability, are determined to likely to receive a full license. However, without a legislative fix to this now legally binding language, the MGC has few options to modify this section of the law.”
Next meeting Thursday
The commission could provide a sense of what direction it will head in on Thursday, when it holds its next public meeting. An agenda for that meeting has not yet been announced.
Stakeholders are anxious for the process to move quickly in Massachusetts, but the regulator has consistently been deliberate and patient, while stating clearly that it will not rush the process.
In August, Massachusetts became the 36th state to legalize sports betting. New @UMassAmherst research projects that legal sports betting will have "far less impact economically" than the state’s two other legal types of gambling – casinos and the lottery. https://t.co/s8IjeO8RBz pic.twitter.com/ytkzCqr94D
— UMass Amherst Research (@Research_UMass) September 30, 2022
The new law allows for three types of wagering licenses — retail licenses for the state’s three casinos and two horse racetracks, eight tethered mobile licenses (two each for the casinos, one each for the racetracks), and seven untethered mobile licenses. More than 40 parties have formally expressed interest in doing business in Massachusetts, so there will be a competitive bidding process.
Barstool Sportsbook (Plainridge Park), BetMGM (MGM-Springfield), and WynnBET (Encore-Boston Harbor) already have market access via their brick-and-mortar partners. That leaves 12 digital platforms still available. Five of those will be tethered to casinos or racetracks and will not have to deal with the temporary license issue. So far, none of the casinos have announced second skins, or platforms, and the racetracks have not released partners.
The MGC also has not indicated whether it will do a universal or staggered launch. For the most part, stakeholders are united in favor of a universal start date, but for some that means retail and mobile all launch at once, while others say they are comfortable with retail launching first and mobile following. There were also those who said the launch order could be retail, then tethered mobile, then untethered mobile, which would give those tethered to physical locations a head start on gaining market share.