Massachusetts Awards First Sports Betting License to Encore Boston Harbor

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Encore Boston Harbor is the Bay State’s first sports betting licensee. The Everett casino was awarded an in-person sportsbook license Thursday afternoon after a public review of its sports betting application by the state gaming commission. 

Pending certification of their operations by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) in the coming weeks, the casino will be able to launch its WynnBET-branded retail sportsbook in late January.

The MGC voted 5–0 to award the license after several hours of review about the casino’s suitability for an in-person sports betting license. Concerns about any crossover between retail and mobile sports betting applications that had plagued the MGC’s review of retail licensing for two other casinos this week seemed to be resolved with Encore, which the MGC agreed will use its WynnBET retail sportsbook as a vendor and not as a licensee. 

Vendors do not require the same level of scrutiny as sports betting licensees before the MGC, agency Chief Enforcement Counsel Heather Hall said during today’s review of the Encore license. She said the MGC’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) typically handles vendor approval, not the commission itself.

“We would go through the process with respect to determining qualifiers of the vendors,” said Hall. 

Questions about links between retail and online sportsbooks in licensing applications from MGM Springfield (BetMGM) and to some extent from Plainridge Park Casino (Penn Interactive/Barstool) led the MGC to postpone awarding retail licenses to those casinos. 

The commission will revisit those licenses next week when it takes up mobile sports betting licenses applications tethered to all three casinos. 

Links Between Casinos and Betting Partners Addressed

Before today’s meeting, it was uncertain if the MGC would see the relationship between Encore and WynnBET differently than it had seen the relationship between MGM Springfield and BetMGM yesterday, or the relationship between Plainridge Park Casino and Barstool Sportsbook earlier this week.

Commission concerns with those casinos’ retail applications primarily stemmed from links between the casinos and their sportsbook partners under their corporate governance structure. MGM Springfield and BetMGM are linked by MGM Resorts International. Plainridge Park Casino is operated by Penn Entertainment, which owns Barstool Sports. 

Encore Boston Harbor and WynnBET are both part of the Wynn Resorts company. In addition to the retail sportsbook, Encore has applied to offer online sports betting through WynnBET and Caesars Sportsbook under two separate licenses that will be vetted next week.

But the commission clearly saw the relationship between Encore and WynnBET differently, with MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein characterizing WynnBET as a vendor in Encore’s application for a retail sportsbook. 

Hypothetically, Judd-Stein said, Encore could make the choice to stop using WynnBET as its retail sportsbook under the casino’s application for the retail license awarded today. 

“If they decided let’s say next week, after all our process of perhaps giving the license under category 1 (retail) and then approving WynnBET as a category 3 (online sportsbook), that they could still be completely free of WynnBET as a vendor, as the supplier of the services,” she said.

120 Kiosks, 10 Betting Windows Planned for Encore

Once live, the Wynn Resorts casino plans to offer live betting at 10 windows and 120 sports kiosks across eight locations at the property, according to casino official Joe Zarbano. Those kiosks will be located on the main casino floor, state-of-the-art sports bar, the casino’s poker room, a “promo room,” and in an area exclusively for higher-limit players.

Betting windows will be located at the casino’s WynnBet-branded sports bar which opened in 2021 in preparation for legal sports betting in Massachusetts. Twenty-nine sports betting kiosks will also be inside the bar, said Zarbano. 

Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield are still expected to be awarded their retail sportsbook licenses next week. Plainridge Park plans to have up to 18 kiosks and five betting windows available for sports betting at a temporary sportsbook at the casino in late January, according to casino manager North Grounsell. A permanent Barstool-branded sports lounge is expected to open in an expanded gaming space at the casino’s former Flutie’s Sports Pub location at a later date. 

Once live, Grounsell said the casino will offer fans a full slate of betting options, with wagering on an estimated 5,000 or more sports markets including the NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, WNBA, and NHL. 

“This incorporates over 1,000 domestic and international sports leagues across 45 different men’s and women’s sports and includes exhibition, preseason, regular season, postseason, and all-star events for all approved sporting leagues,” he told the MGC.

MGM Springfield

MGM Springfield has a $4 million sports lounge ready to go when retail sports betting launches in Massachusetts in late January, casino officials said today. Bettors will be able to watch sports on a 45-foot viewing wall and then place their bets through the BetMGM sportsbook at teller windows in the lounge

“We made a decision at risk about a year and a half ago, hoping and believing that we would see legislation come through allowing for sports betting in the commonwealth,” MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) before it voted to award the license today. 

What’s Next for Massachusetts Sports Betting

The MGC is awarding in-person sports betting licenses first to meet its timeline for a late January retail sports betting launch at casinos. Mobile sportsbooks, tied to each casino, and up to six standalone sportsbooks not tied to any retail location are expected to launch in early March. 

Of all 12 mobile sports betting license applications filed with the MGC last month, five are tied to casinos and six are for standalone apps. 

The six standalone sportsbook apps competing for a license in Massachusetts are BallyBet, Betr, Betway, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet

The remaining mobile application was filed by horse racing simulcast facility Raynham Park. The simulcast facility plans to partner with bet365 for its sportsbook launch sometime next year. 

In-person and mobile sports betting licenses tied to the commonwealth’s two horse racing simulcast facilities at Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs will be awarded on a rolling basis. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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