Massachusetts sports betting officially became an emergency today as state gaming regulators used emergency rules to expedite the first of hundreds of regulations required under the commonwealth’s 2022 sports betting law.
The regulation adopted today by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) allows the agency to certify and contract with the nation’s two leading independent casino and sports wagering equipment testing labs to ensure the integrity of potential Massachusetts sports betting operators.
Both labs — Gaming Labs International (GLI) and BMM testlabs — are already certified by MGC to test equipment at Massachusetts’ licensed casinos. Additional certification, however, is required before the companies can test sports wagering equipment in the Bay State, according to MGC legal counsel.
The emergency regulation adopted today will allow that process to begin as soon as the regulation is filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth and officially published.
“We know these two labs are the only ones available,” MGC Executive Director Karen Wells told commissioners before they approved the emergency regulation today. “If we can move forward – we can get them on contract more quickly.”
The emergency language will stay in effect for three months, giving the MGC time to get a permanent regulation in place.
Testing as A First Step
Adoption of an emergency regulation for the testing labs is considered a first step in the Bay State’s sports betting launch timeline, Wells told the MGC today. Contracting with the labs later, rather than sooner, she explained, could push the entire process back weeks, or even months.
“So much of sports wagering is the technical compliance. So much of the regulatory job that we have is making sure that these platforms are legitimate,” said Wells. “We really need this piece to move forward quickly.”
Four of five MGC commissioners voted for the regulation, with one commissioner abstaining. Among the four voting to adopt the regulation on an emergency basis was Eileen O’Brien, although she made it clear that she intends to consider each sports betting regulation that follows on its merits.
MGC staff expects as many as 225 sports betting regulations before the process is through. Each will likely be considered individually, allowing commissioners to decide if an emergency or permanent regulation is needed.
“It is going to be a reg-by-reg question for me,” said O’Brien.
Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Regulations
The majority of the commission seemed satisfied with advice from legal counsel that sports wagering appears to constitute an emergency under the commonwealth 2022 sports betting law.
Attorney Lon Povich with Boston-based Anderson & Kreiger cited consumer protection and temporary licensing provisions as solid reasons to take the emergency route.
According to Povich, the new law “seems to create a situation where the public welfare would be protected both by having a decent regulatory scheme in place when the temporary gaming is launched and, at the same time, temporary gaming is supposed to be launched in an expeditious fashion.”
That appeared satisfactory to MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein, an attorney who formerly served as Deputy Chief Legal Counsel for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
“Right now there is no legal platform in Massachusetts to bet on any sports event. There are nefarious organizations that are trying to reach out to those individuals because they’ve heard sports wagering has been legalized,” said Judd-Stein.
“I really do think there is a public safety and public welfare issue here.”
House Rules, Temporary Licensing To Be Discussed Sept. 15
The MGC is scheduled to meet on sports betting regulatory issues again on Sept. 15, when it is expected to vote on a proposed regulation dealing with sports wagering house rules. Discussion on the proposed regulation began today with several edits requested by commission members.
No vote was taken on the proposed regulation for sports betting house rules.
Additionally, discussion – and possible action – is expected at next week’s meeting on temporary licensing of sports betting operators. A temporary license will allow qualified sports betting operators to immediately begin operations for a fee of $1 million.
“As with any piece of legislation, there are always complexities attached to various parts and there are complexities that will arise in that discussion,” Judd-Stein told the commission today. “The house rules are really combined as part of the temporary licensure process.”
Temporary licenses will be granted at the MGC’s discretion and be good for one year. Regular licenses, if approved by the commission, will be in effect for five years, and be renewable for another five years. No application for licensure has been approved to date.
No launch date has been announced for Massachusetts sports betting.