One of three Massachusetts casinos was given extra time to file its sports betting licensing application today after missing the required filing deadline last week.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 5-0 to accept MGM Springfield’s in-person sports betting license application after deciding the casino had missed the Nov. 21 filing deadline by 48 hours due to “extraordinary circumstances” allowed for by regulation.
MGM Springfield counsel Gus Kim told the commission the deadline was missed due to internal delays related to filing the casino’s retail application and a mobile sports betting application for its betting partner, BetMGM. The BetMGM application was filed on time, said Kim, and the application fee for both licenses – $200,000 apiece – was paid, although the retail application itself was late.
“We were struggling to do both the BetMGM application and ours at the same time, and there was a mix-up, and it was an extraordinary circumstance where many people were doing many things at the same time,” said Kim.
After consulting with its chief counsel, the MGC voted to allow the in-person application to go through. Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said regulatory leeway on the matter, combined with the fact that the in-person licenses are not up for bid, helped her to vote in the casino’s favor.
O’Brien also cited the commission’s decision to accept retail and mobile sports betting license applications from horse racing simulcast facilities past the Nov. 21 deadline as a reason for her vote.
“To me, those are pretty powerful reasons in terms of my willingness to say yes to this,” she said.
How Mass Sports Betting Retail and Mobile Licensing Works
Massachusetts has three casinos that are eligible for in-person sports betting licenses under the state’s 2022 sports wagering law. The other two – Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino – both made the application filing deadline.
All three in-person sportsbook licenses (Category 1 licenses) set aside for Massachusetts’ three casinos are non-competitive, the MGC clarified today. That means a casino is guaranteed a retail license if found suitable by the commission.
Still, casinos were expected to meet the Nov. 21 deadline set by the commission.
Similarly, the state’s two horse racing simulcast locations – Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park – are guaranteed a retail license (Category 2) pending suitability review. The MGC voted on November 10 to allow both locations to file their retail applications after the November 21 deadline on a rolling basis.
Mobile sports betting apps partnered with a casino or simulcast facility, known as Category 3 tethered licenses, are to be licensed separately. Each casino is allowed up to two mobile sportsbook apps by law. Each simulcast location is allowed one each.
Additionally, the MGC will vet applications for up to seven Category 3 untethered licenses that are not tied to either a casino or simulcast location.
15 Applications Reportedly Submitted By Deadline
The MGC reported on Nov. 21 that a total of 15 sports betting license applications were filed by the deadline, including applications for Category 1 and Category 3 licenses both tethered and untethered to casinos. Only one Category 3 application was for a mobile app tied to a simulcast facility (bet365, partnered with Raynham Park).
MGC official Loretta Lillios said today that the agency is working now to make sure all applications are in order. Lillios said her office is aligning its work to meet the commission’s launch timeline.
Right now, retail sportsbooks at casinos are scheduled for launch in late January. Mobile sportsbooks are scheduled to launch in early March.
“The (agency) is not waiting (to start) its review for preliminary suitability,” Lillios said. “That is happening on an ongoing basis.”
The MGC plans to hold a public comment period on the three casino applications on Dec. 5. Public comment on the applications for mobile licenses tied to the casinos will follow on Dec. 12.
A public hearing on applications for mobile sportsbooks not tied to the casinos is scheduled for Jan. 3.