Massachusetts Turns Down DraftKings’ Call to Revisit Sports Betting Launch Timeline

Massachusetts is giving the cold shoulder to a request by DraftKings that state gaming regulators take another look at their plans for a staggered retail and online sports betting launch in 2023. 

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) today agreed unanimously not to reconsider its Oct. 7 decision to launch retail sports betting in late January and online sports betting in early March. 

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said DraftKings had sent a letter to each commissioner over the past several days asking them to revisit the Oct. 7 vote. 

She said that the Boston-based sportsbook did not make a strong enough case for why the staggered launch shouldn’t proceed as planned.

“I read the letter completely,” she said. “I didn’t see any new circumstances or points of clarification we needed to address. So we won’t move forward on this.”

DraftKings Wants Universal Retail and Mobile Launch in Massachusetts

DraftKings was one of a dozen or more prospective Massachusetts sports betting operators that appeared at a Sept. 22 MGC public hearing that addressed the possibility of a staggered launch.

DraftKings Sr. Director of Legal Affairs Chris Cipolla said at the time that his company believes all prospective Massachusetts sportsbook operators should have “the opportunity to launch on day 1,” both retail and mobile. He asked for a single universal launch date for all prospective operators to work towards, “setting that expectation and allowing them to work towards that, we have found that’s the most efficient way to launch a market.” 

No other operators at the Sept. 22 meeting asked for a universal launch for retail and online, said Judd-Stein. Other online operators only requested a universal launch for online sports betting

“With one clear exception, the online operators did not object to a staggered start provided all online operators launched on the same day, a so-called universal start,” she said. Other commissioners agreed. 

Commissioner: ‘I Think We’ve Really Discussed It Enough’

“I don’t think we need to revisit this. I think people are concerned that we might be giving a leg up if we do a staggered launch. I don’t agree with that,” said Commissioner Bradford Hill. “I think we’ve really discussed it enough that we don’t need to discuss it again.” 

Commissioner Jordan Maynard also agreed a staggered launch should proceed. However, he said he is concerned about what he called “equity issues” relating to mobile apps tied to retail operators. 

“To be specific, I’m worried about the information that can be gathered at a kiosk at a category 1 (retail sportsbook) and be handed off to a tethered category 3 (mobile/online sportsbook tied to a retail operator) that could perhaps give someone a leg up,” said Maynard.

He recommended the commission work on those concerns through regulations now being considered. 

The MGC has set Nov. 21 as the deadline for all sportsbook operators to apply for launch early next year. The current timeline would allow retail sportsbooks at three casinos and three simulcast/track facilities to launch in late January in time for Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12. 

Mobile/online sports betting in Massachusetts would launch in time for March Madness next year. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer 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, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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