Sportsbooks Push for Universal Launch Date for Massachusetts Sports Betting

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Top sportsbooks and casinos vying for spots in the Massachusetts sports betting market seem to want two things: a universal launch date for all operators, and a limit on the number of temporary licenses ultimately issued to mobile sportsbooks. 

At a roundtable meeting today in Boston, FanDuel, BetMGM, Bally’s, and Fanatics were among several potential Massachusetts operators that advised the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) against issuing more temporary mobile sports betting licenses than the full market can hold. 

No more than seven permanent mobile licenses can be issued by law to operators that aren’t tied to a casino or simulcast facility. Several operators told the MGC those so-called “untethered” temporary licenses should be no more, or no less, than the number of available permanent licenses. At issue is the lack of a cap on untethered temporary mobile licenses in Massachusetts’ 2022 sports betting law. 

The total number of permanent licenses under the law, for both retail and mobile, is limited to 20 – five retail licenses at casinos and simulcast facilities, eight mobile apps tied to those facilities, plus the seven untethered apps. 

Comments from operators before the MGC today showcased their desire to put all new Massachusetts sportsbooks on equal footing when it comes to temporary licensing and giving operators at least a chance to launch at the same time. 

FanDuel

Temporary licensing: FanDuel VP for Product and New Market Compliance Cory Fox today advised the MGC against issuing more temporary licenses than available permanent licenses under the 2022 law. 

“A successful launch of sports wagering requires a significant investment of time and resources by the operator to make sure they are creating a customized process for the specific state where they are launching,” Fox said today. “We don’t think it’s an effective use of resources by the operator or by the commission to offer more temporary licenses than they can be final licenses, given the significant investment.” 

Launch date:  “At a minimum, all mobile operators, regardless of category (tethered or untethered), should have a universal start date,” said Fox. A universal start date creates fair competition, he said. In states without a universal start date, “operators who have launched first have enjoyed a significant sustained advantage in market share vs. operators who have launched just a few days or weeks later.” 

BetMGM

BetMGM Sr. Mgr of Licensing Jose Wyseman represents BetMGM and MGM Springfield – one of three licensed casinos in the commonwealth eligible for retail and tethered mobile sports betting licenses under Massachusetts law. 

Temporary licensing: For untethered sportsbooks, Wyseman said it is BetMGM’s position that temporary licenses should not exceed the number of untethered permanent licenses available. “The concept of issuing more temporary licenses than permanent and then having operators dismantle their operations is problematic for several reasons and would be unprecedented, and we caution against that.” 

Launch date: BetMGM advised MGC to set and announce a universal launch date. “This is an approach that has been adopted in several other jurisdictions with success,” said Wyseman. ” … It affords the best experience for customers who, on the first day, are welcome to a full suite of operators and products, and lets the market speak for itself.” Arizona and Colorado are two states that implemented sports betting by universal launch. Ohio has set a universal launch date for Jan. 1, 2023. 

DraftKings

Temporary licensing: DraftKings Sr. Director of Legal Affairs Chris Cipolla said DraftKings supports temporary licensing of untethered sportsbooks. Unlike FanDuel and BetMGM, the Boston-based company did not comment on whether those licenses should be limited or not, instead leaving that decision up to the MGC. 

“One of the benefits to being in 2022 … the commonwealth and you as the commission do have the benefit of four-plus years post (PASPA) to look to other jurisdictions where operators are safely operating their products to help determine who should be entitled to a temporary license,” said Cipolla. “We do feel the temporary licensing process is important to maintaining that parity across all categories.”

Launch date: DraftKings believes all operators should have “the opportunity to launch on day 1,” both retail and mobile, said Cipolla. “By setting a date that operators can 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.” 

Fanatics

Temporary licensing: Fanatics VP of Regulatory Affairs Alex Smith sided with FanDuel and BetMGM when it comes to temporary licensing. “I would caution that allowing more operators to launch than the market can bear on a full license basis does introduce consumer protection concerns that, I think, are difficult to address,” said Smith. 

Launch date: Fanatics supports a universal launch. “It adds certainty to the market and makes the process smoother both for you as a regulator and all of us here as operators,” Smith told the MGC. 

Bally’s Interactive

Temporary licensing: Bally’s Interactive legal counsel Justin Smith said the company does not recommend temporary licensing in Massachusetts. Licensing on a temporary basis without a cap that matches available permanent licenses under the law would hurt consumers and the operator, said Smith. 

“Customers have already placed wagers on future games, which are usually placed months in advance,” he said, with product development also an issue. “Bally’s recommends completing the due diligence of each applicant’s ability to launch operations to the citizens of Massachusetts with the comfort that all operators and vendors have completed the state investigations and…  are authorized and certified.” 

Launch date: Bally’s Interactive does recommend setting a universal launch date — especially for mobile — to allow operators to prepare ahead and launch when ready. “That will place the onus on the operators to meet that date,” Smith told the commission. 

Caesars Sportsbook

Noncommittal on the issue of both temporary licensing and a universal start date today was Caesars Sportsbook. The sportsbooks’ legal representative Mark Hichar of the law firm Greenberg Traurig made a brief comment stating Caesars’ position in vague terms: 

“We seek only that the process regarding the launch timeline be clear and transparent,” said Hichar. “We appreciate the views of others who are seeking untethered category 3 licenses, and we look forward to hearing their opinions. But none from us at this time.” 

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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