Massachusetts Sports Betting Hits Temporary Licensing Snag

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Massachusetts has the ability to get sports betting up and running at a faster pace under temporary licensing. But state gaming regulators first need to know how many temporary licenses they can issue – specifically when it comes to untethered mobile sports betting apps.  

Lack of an apparent cap on temporary licenses for untethered mobile apps in the commonwealth’s 2022 sports betting law could significantly impact mobile operators and consumers if the issue isn’t addressed before launch, Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) executive director Karen Wells advised the MGC in a public meeting today. 

Wells warned the MGC that untethered apps issued temporary licenses to operate independent of brick-and-mortar casinos or simulcast halls will be shut down if they aren’t ultimately issued one of seven full licenses for untethered mobile sports betting available under the 2022 law.

That will put up to 76 percent of temporary-licensed sports apps untethered to brick-and-mortar gaming establishments out of business in Massachusetts, she said. 

“The Commission will need to set up a regulatory process for the shut-down of the operators that do not receive a full operator license,” Wells said unequivocally. 

Companies that aren’t issued a full license would also lose the $1 million fee required for a temporary sports betting license under Massachusetts law, she said. Information on bettors may also be impacted. 

“We will need to work to anticipate any problems that may arise, particularly that impact the protection of Massachusetts consumers and the public confidence in the integrity of sports wagering in Massachusetts,” Wells told the commission. 

Massachusetts Will Seek Input From Mobile Sports Betting Operators 

With at least 30 companies expected to compete for the seven full licenses, Wells said MGC should get feedback from potential mobile operators as soon as possible. That feedback is expected to come next week when the MGC holds its next roundtable discussion on sports betting regulation. 

At today’s meeting, MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said lack of an (apparent) statutory cap on temporary licensees for untethered apps has left her “struggling.”

“It was intentionally limited,” Judd-Stein told the commission today. “The mobile/digital operating world entering together  — because of the intensity of trying to attract a patron is so critical, there was probably the intention of having everybody start swimming early on. I’m not sure I feel comfortable that we have the legal authority to limit that pool.” 

Also uncomfortable, she said, is the thought of shutting down legitimate businesses that qualified for a temporary license but don’t make the final licensing cut. 

That “is just untenable to me. And then the fallout to customers,” Judd-Stein said. “It’s just a construct that I would say was never intended here.” 

No Massachusetts Sports Betting Launch Date Yet

As many as 225 regulations governing Massachusetts sports betting are expected to be adopted by MGC in the coming weeks. All mobile apps will be licensed separately, with up to seven untethered and eight tethered mobile sports betting apps possible under state law. 

Tethered apps will be tied to the state’s three casinos and two simulcast facilities. Each casino is eligible for up to two mobile apps, with simulcast facilities eligible for one mobile app each. Each casino and simulcast hall is also authorized to open a retail sportsbook. 

Up to 20 total sportsbooks could potentially launch under the commonwealth’s sports betting law. 

No sports betting launch date has been announced for Massachusetts.

 

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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