Hours before the NFL season kicks off on Sept. 8, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission plans to huddle with its staff to discuss how the Bay State can expedite its pending sports betting launch.
Recommendations shared that day could determine what action must be handled by state regulation – and what could be handled outside of regulation – “to give licensees a little bit more of a time frame,” MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said in a roundtable meeting Thursday with potential retail Massachusetts sports betting licensees.
The recommendations may also give potential licensees a better idea of when Massachusetts sports betting could actually launch.
That won’t allow Massachusetts bettors to wager in-state in time for the Bills vs. Rams NFL season opener on Thursday Night Football or even the Patriots’ Week 1 game against the Dolphins that Sunday. But knowing what regulatory action is needed first, and what could come later, “will direct the timeline,” MGC Executive Director Karen Wells told the MGC on Thursday.
Regulations Play Into Ultimate Launch Date
Certain sports betting regulations are required by state law and must be established by the MGC no matter what. The meeting on Sept. 8 will give all stakeholders a clearer picture of what regulations should proceed first, according to Wells.
But not every action may require regulations.
What is needed, or not needed, is what the MGC hopes to find out next month.
“If you want everything done by regulation, it could extend the timeline,” Wells told the commission at Thursday’s roundtable discussion. “We are trying to put together a structure so we can identify ‘x’ for the commission.”
According to Judd-Stein, waiting for regulatory approval is a 90-day process. While she has repeatedly said the MGC won’t sacrifice gaming integrity in the commonwealth, the MGC chair seemed keenly aware that many people want sports betting up and running as quickly as possible.
“Our timeline absolutely informs theirs,” she said Thursday.
Casinos, Simulcast Facilities Say Launch Date Important
Three casinos (Plainridge Park Casino and Track, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor) and two simulcast facilities (Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs) are eligible for Massachusetts retail sports betting licenses under the commonwealth’s 2022 sports betting legislation signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last week. All five facilities seemed to be on the same page at yesterday’s roundtable meeting about the need for a ballpark launch date.
A target date will help sports betting retailers compete fairly in the new market, they told the MGC.
“At least we would all have a level playing field,” Encore Boston Harbor official Jacqui Krum told the MGC.
Massachusetts Mobile Sports Betting Roundtable Also in Works
Mobile sportsbooks will also be licensed under the new law. A separate roundtable meeting with potential mobile licensees will be held soon – with casinos and simulcast facilities part of the discussion.
Each of the casinos is allowed two mobile apps under the law, with each mobile app licensed separately. Each simulcast facility is eligible for one app each.
Seven mobile sportsbooks not tied to the retail operators are also authorized under the law.
The MGC is still debating whether it will stagger the launch of retail and mobile sports betting, or allow retail and mobile to launch simultaneously.