Will all qualified Massachusetts gaming entities go live on the same day? Will retail launch ahead of mobile or vice versa? Should existing casinos and parimutuel facilities get preference?
Less than 24 hours after Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature made sports betting legal in the Bay State, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission began exploring these questions and more during a meeting Thursday. While it’s too soon to have clarity on most of the questions, the MGC did set a time — 10 a.m. on Aug. 18 — for its first meeting with stakeholders.
That “roundtable” discussion will include representatives from each of the state’s five existing physical gaming locations: Encore-Boston Harbor (WynnBET), MGM-Springfield (BetMGM), Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook), Raynham Park, and Suffolk Downs. Under the new law, each of those entities will be entitled to one physical sportsbook location, while the casinos are entitled to two digital platforms and the racetracks are each entitled to one.
While it’s clear that the MGC recognizes that those five operators experienced in gaming in the state are positioned to get through the licensing process faster than a stand-alone entity, the agency hasn’t indicated if they’ll be the first to launch or if it will launch all types of licensees simultaneously.
Expect DraftKings and FanDuel
The new law allows for seven stand-alone mobile platforms, and it’s a no-brainer to assume that Boston-based DraftKings and rival FanDuel will be among them. Given that it is headquartered in Massachusetts, it would follow that DraftKings will lobby for a universal start date that includes untethered platforms.
For now, it’s unclear how and when that decision will be made.
“My inclination is simultaneous,” MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said. “Rather than sequential.”
But Judd-Stein stressed that those words, which imply a universal go-live date, are her early opinion and not a decision. Her comments were followed by questions from MGC Executive Director Karen Wells, who asked if the commission would want a single launch date, if retail would “stand up first,” or if existing retail locations would be able to launch physical and digital books at the same time.
Who will make final decisions about that is unclear. The commission could either tell MGC staff what its preference is or direct staff to make the decision. What was clear Thursday is that there’s a lot to consider.
Timeline still up in the air
Last week, Wells shared a list of 225 potential regulations and the need for additional staff in order to move swiftly through the approval process. Starting next week, the MGC will consult with stakeholders on each of the rules, and, likely, what applications will look like. Several commissioners shared Judd-Stein’s opinion that all approvals should move on parallel tracks, but for potential operators not already active in the state, the process will be more complex.
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The MGC is also preparing for a competitive situation for the seven stand-alone mobile licenses, and the number of applicants could determine how long the approval process will take. For example, if there are seven or fewer applicants, each could be vetted, approved, and licensed, but if there are more than seven, the MGC will need to develop guidelines or standards to determine which seven would be awarded licenses.
There is no mandated go-live date in the new law.