After two Massachusetts horse racetracks and parimutuel facilities told state gaming commissioners that they would not make a Nov. 21 sports betting application deadline, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted to accept and approve their applications on a rolling basis Thursday afternoon. The commission also approved six rules for legal sports betting.
The racetracks, defined in new legal wagering legislation as Category 2 licensees, have been somewhat left behind in the application process, as their situation differs from traditional casinos and stand-alone mobile platforms. The commission earlier this fall set a Nov. 21 deadline for Category 1 (retail) and Category 3 (stand-alone mobile) licensees that want to launch in the first quarter of 2023, but had not addressed the racetracks, which find themselves in a unique position. During the meeting, it was clear that the tracks definitely aren’t on schedule to open brick-and-mortar facilities in January, along with the state’s three casinos.
Under the new law, Category 2 licensees are allowed a brick-and-mortar sportsbook and one mobile skin, or platform. There will be three Category 1 physical locations at Encore-Boston Harbor (WynnBET), MGM-Northfield (BetMGM), and Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook). While the three casinos have easy access to platforms through their parent companies, the racetracks are still negotiating with potential partners and have not announced who those will be. The possibility exists that the tracks — Raynham Park and Sterling Suffolk Racecourse — could partner with one operator for retail wagering and a second for digital.
DLA Piper Attorney Bruce Barnett said that Sterling Suffolk Downs has been “in talks with various top-of-the-line operators,” but is not yet prepared to file an application or divulge who it has been talking to.
Racetracks question licensing fees
The attorney representing Raynham Park also brought up the question of licensing fees, which are set at $5 million. He suggested it was unclear if the track or its partner(s) would have to pay two separate fees, one each for retail and digital wagering, or just a single fee. The MGC voted to require one fee for each wagering licensee, and General Counsel Todd Grossman said the commission must still determine what entities have to get sports betting licenses and define the term “qualified gaming entity.”
'Like the good old days': Raynham Park breaks ground on simulcasting sports betting facility https://t.co/I2dfxqGnw1
— The Enterprise (@enterprisenews) May 12, 2022
“There is no, if you will, in-house operation of a mobile operation,” Grossman told the commission. “Any mobile operator has to have a Category 3 license. And in this case, what that means is that the operator has to pay the $5 million fee in order to get their category three license once they have their license. They can then run a Category 2 or Category 1, for that matter, mobile operation.”
He went on to explain that his interpretation of the law is that no “one entity is paying the fee twice. It’s that everyone who requires licensure has to pay the fee once and that is what I believe the law says.”
Six sports betting regulations approved
Retail sports betting is set to go live in Massachusetts as early as “late January,” with regulators aiming for “early March” for digital launch.
Before that can happen, the commission must approve more than 200 regulations being crafted by staff. At the meeting, the MGC voted to approve six regulations surrounding fees, temporary licensing, and suitability that make up what the commission referred to as the “sports wagering operator licensing framework.”
Too bad Massachusetts Lawmakers can’t figure out how to implement sports betting. You think March madness is big gambling money. World Cup is bananas
— Andrew Augustus (@AndrewAugustus) November 9, 2022
Commissioners opted to delay a vote on a regulation that would ban minors from wagering.
The commission is set to meet again Monday at 10 a.m. local time for a roundtable discussion about sports wagering advertising and media.