The Massachusetts Gaming Commission wasn’t ready to share a concrete timeline for the state’s sports betting launch at Thursday’s meeting, but members of the commission stressed that a launch is not imminent.
“We are in this together, and we just ask for the public’s patience as we move forward,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said.
Addressing rumors that legal sports betting platforms would go live in the state in the next three weeks, one commissioner, Bradford Hill, said, “Obviously, that’s not going to happen.” It’ll be months, not weeks, until sports betting platforms launch in Massachusetts.
Lottery wants involvement
Deborah Goldberg, state treasurer and receiver general, spoke briefly to the commission Thursday, emphasizing the importance of the state lottery to Massachusetts and that she doesn’t want to see sports betting harm lottery revenue.
Goldberg said lawmakers project that sports wagering will make $60 million for the state annually, with $16.5 million of that money allocated to unrestricted local aid. Goldberg noted the Massachusetts Lottery generated $1 billion in unrestricted local aid last year.
“The lottery plays a very vital role in generating unrestricted local aid for our communities, and it is imperative that we work to ensure that it continues to do so,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg suggested that sports betting licensees present plans to the gaming commission to mitigate negative impact to the lottery, and that licensees agree to engage in cross-promotional measures with the lottery.
NEW: State Treasurer Deb Goldberg will seek a @MassGamingComm rule requiring sports betting licensees to “present a plan that can mitigate impacts on the Lottery, and in addition, that licensees partner with the Lottery on cross-promotion, both in-person and online.” pic.twitter.com/cpPNjsADJ2
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) September 8, 2022
Thursday’s meeting wasn’t short, running from 9:30 a.m. until almost 5 p.m. During that time the MGC made some notable progress, including adoption of emergency regulations to approve independent laboratory certification and approving a budget of more than $2 million for hiring sports wagering staff and aiding the team’s operations.
There were also general discussions about implementing various emergency sports betting regulations to speed up the future launch. The rationale for using emergency regulations was that it’s in the public’s best interest to have legal mobile sportsbooks available soon, given that illegal, unregulated sportsbooks are trying to attract Massachusetts consumers.
The topic of temporary sports betting licenses is expected to be discussed at next week’s meeting, and the staff will begin to draft application regulations in the near future.
Toward the end of the meeting, the MGC listened to a presentation on responsible gaming by Dr. Rachel Volberg, a research professor at the University of Massachusetts. Volberg presented a couple of recommendations to the commission, including limiting celebrity endorsements in sports betting advertisements. Interestingly, the findings also recommended banning in-game betting, something that most customers and operators would certainly be against.
Skinner admitted her brain felt like mush by the end of the meeting, and she likely wasn’t the only commissioner drained by the day-long session. With Volberg’s report being presented at the end of the meeting, it’s likely commissioners will consider it moving forward, even though it wasn’t used to guide action items Thursday.