The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Monday moved forward in awarding its second retail and digital sports betting licenses, unanimously deeming both MGM Springfield and BetMGM “preliminarily suitable” for licenses.
Both have plans to go live as soon as the commission launches operators. The MGC has indicated it is aiming for a late January go-live for brick-and-mortar wagering and early March for digital platforms in the state.
BetMGM, which would ultimately have a Category 3 (mobile) license, will be tethered to MGM Springfield, which would ultimately be awarded a Category 1 (retail) license. MGM Springfield is entitled to two digital skins, but it has not announced who it will partner with for the second one.
Under Massachusetts law, the three existing casinos are entitled to one retail license and two digital licenses each, the two racetracks can apply for one retail and one mobile license each, and up to seven digital platforms could be awarded stand-alone Category 3 licenses. So far, six operators — Bally Bet, Betr, Betway, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet — have applied for stand-alone licenses. Bet365 has applied for a license with plans to partner with Raynham Park for a digital platform, but the racetracks are on a different timeline than their casino and stand-alone mobile counterparts.
Plainridge Park, Barstool, Caesars up next
The MGC previously approved both Encore Boston Harbor and WynnBET. It is scheduled to review applications for Plainridge Park (PENN Entertainment), its digital Barstool Sportsbook, and its second digital partner, Caesars Sportsbook, on Tuesday.
The commission started the review process for Plainridge Park Dec. 7, but it raised questions surrounding PENN Entertainment’s relationship with the controversial Barstool Sports media company, which it partly owns and uses to promote its sportsbook. Last week, the MGC began a review of Caesars’ application, but it had questions relating to responsible gaming, suitability, and previous violations in other jurisdictions. Should the company be able to satisfactorily address those issues, the MGC would be in a position to approve a license.
On Monday, in a meeting that lasted more than 11 hours and included several executive sessions during which sensitive issues were discussed, the commission quizzed BetMGM executives about everything from technology and responsible gaming plans to its relationship with Entain, which is a part-owner of the company. A key part of the discussion surrounded questions about violations the company has had both domestically and abroad, including some by Entain in the United Kingdom. The public, including media, was not privy to discussions surrounding those issues, but BetMGM apparently satisfied the commission.
BetMGM executives gave presentations on compliance, responsible gaming, diversity, and technology. The company, which uses the GameSense responsible gaming program, is live in 19 jurisdictions, including some that have technology standards that mirror those in Massachusetts.
Every potential Massachusetts licensee is subject to a standard set of conditions, including inspections, before it can launch. In addition, BetMGM must provide “timely and ongoing updates” on two “confidential” investigations that the company reported to the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau earlier this month.
BetMGM must also provide the commission with a vendor diversity list ahead of launch. During the meeting, BetMGM spent significant time reviewing diversity within its ranks, including breaking down how many minorities and women were part of each level of management.
Responsible gaming a critical issue
On the retail side, commissioners got answers to outstanding questions on Monday, and at times MGM representatives seemed frustrated at the level of detail and the commission’s desire to better understand the relationship between MGM Springfield and BetMGM. In particular, commissioners asked multiple questions about how MGM Springfield would handle responsible gaming.
“We have gone above and beyond on this application,” one representative said. “We have been nothing but transparent.”
In general, the commission wanted to know if MGM Springfield would set its own policies or be beholden to those that BetMGM and Entain set out. It also wanted a clearer understanding of how technology would be shared between the companies.
In essence, BetMGM will be MGM Springfield’s vendor. Executives said MGM Springfield sets its own policies, and those can be different from those suggested by the digital side.