Less than 24 hours after Massachusetts sports betting was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said the development of a launch timeline is “responsibly underway.”
The MGC plans to meet next week with its sports betting stakeholders in a roundtable meeting on regulations on Aug. 18, Judd-Stein said at the MGC’s regularly scheduled meeting Thursday. Information shared at that meeting — plus legal and IT work already underway at the MGC — is expected to help move the process along.
For now, no launch date for Massachusetts sports betting is set.
“Our work with ultimate licensees will be swift and thorough, and we will keep all stakeholders and the public apprised every step of the way,” she said. “We know that you are all eager for an exact timeline. The development of that is responsibly underway.”
Vendor Regulations Could Be Among First Drafted, Approved
Judd-Stein said the commission intends to take whatever time it needs to ensure all 225 potential sports betting regulations in Massachusetts are up to par. All regulations must be approved by the MGC before they can take effect.
Vendor regulations may be among the first rules drafted. MGC Executive Director Karen Wells told the commission Thursday that having regulations in place for gaming vendors – such as server companies and geolocation vendors – is expected to help sports betting licensees with procurement, should supply-chain disruptions continue.
“(Even) if we go forward with temporary licensing as we do (now) in gaming, that will help them there as well,” said Wells. Several commissioners agreed, including Commissioner Brad Hill – a former Massachusetts state legislator who supported legalized sports betting before he left office last year.
“I think moving forward with developing new regulations that I believe would mirror regulations on our current vendors (in gaming) is appropriate,” without lowering any standards in the process, Hill said.
Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Retail and Mobile Launch Simultaneously?
Licensing decisions for Massachusetts sports betting would come after regulations are approved by the MGC. The commission is already starting to eye the licensing process. How that plays out could determine whether online and retail operations launch simultaneously, or at different times.
Hill asked if his fellow commissioners had considered whether already-licensed casinos and simulcasting facilities in the commonwealth would be allowed to launch retail and/or online ahead of online-only sportsbooks. There will be up to seven online licenses.
According to Judd-Stein, that could partly be decided based on what MGC staff learns at the agency’s first sports betting roundtable meeting on Aug. 18. Current gaming licensees – including Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino, Raynham Park, and Suffolk Downs – will be invited to share their opinions at the first roundtable, with other stakeholder roundtables held at a later date.
“My inclination is that to the extent there can be simultaneous work done, with an ultimate goal at the end, that would be ideal – rather than sequential,” she said.
Wells said that she believes the commission will have the final say.
“If there is a commission directive to do this so that there is one launch date, there’s one thing,” she said. “But just because we may be able to implement retail faster … that doesn’t mean we would wait and do all the retail, and then day x start on the mobile,” she said.
“I think the plan is, a lot of this is in synergy, so we would move forward as we go.”