Massachusetts Clears Way For Sportsbook Certification Ahead of 2023 Sports Betting Launch

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Massachusetts has unanimously approved an emergency regulation that will allow sportsbooks licensed in the Bay State to launch here next year when sports betting goes live.  

The 5-0 vote today by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) allows the commission to certify for launch those operators that meet state regulatory and approved industry standards.

Once certified, as many as 15 online sportsbooks and 5 retail sportsbooks would be put in queue for launch early next year. 

MGC General Counsel Todd Grossman said the operation certificate regulation – along with other technical regulations approved today – must be in place before sports betting can go live. A sportsbook operator that is licensed, but not certified, will not be allowed to launch, Grossman said. 

“We’ve talked about the significance of the operation certificate vis a vis the award of the sports wagering license, and that when the license is awarded, it doesn’t necessarily mean that an operator can commence operations immediately,” he said today. “They would also need to secure an operation certificate.” 

‘Local Deployment’ is the Goal

Testing standards for sportsbooks vying for launch in the Massachusetts sports betting market have been set by gaming industry certification heavyweight GLI, one of only two gaming equipment testing labs widely used across the US. Any certificate issued by GLI would have to be signed off on by the MGC to ensure that every licensee has been thoroughly vetted. 

The process should go smoothly, GLI VP of Government Relations Kevin Mullally told the MGC at its meeting today.

“There hasn’t been a single market where we haven’t been able to meet a deadline from a testing perspective,” said Mullally.  “We don’t know who all your operators are yet, but the vast majority operating somewhere in the United States are already subject to GLI 33 (the accepted operating standard across the industry). The platforms have been testing for GLI 33, so what needs to be done is local deployment.”

As many as 20 sportsbooks could launch in Massachusetts by late March. That includes up to five retail sportsbooks – one for each of the state’s three casinos and two simulcast facilities – expected to open in late January. As many as 15 mobile sportsbooks (eight tied to retail locations and seven standalone sportsbooks) are on track to launch in early March. 

Another retail sportsbook and tethered mobile sportsbook could come later if plans to build a new horse racetrack in Hardwick are successful. Local officials are expected to vote on that issue again next week, possibly triggering a voter referendum. 

Sportsbook Testing Will Weed Our Pre-Launch Glitches

Certification of sports wagering operations will come after equipment and testing of that equipment. The MGC also adopted regulations governing those technical processes in addition to operator certification.

Testing online sportsbooks – both via web browser and mobile app –  helps to rid platforms of any glitches before launch, MGC staffer Katrina Jagroop-Gomes told the commission today.  It’s part of what she calls the “pre-launch phase” that begins when most technical regulations are approved. 

All technical regulations approved today will be filed as an emergency, allowing them to go into effect immediately once they are filed with the Secretary of State. That will keep the MGC on track to meet its launch timeline next year. 

GLI Director of Client Solutions Joe Bunevith told the commission most operators who are likely to apply for a Massachusetts license are already licensed in other states and know what is expected of them.

GLI will work closely with them to make sure all software is tested in-lab and ready for final MGC approval, said Bunevith.

“As long as you guys say so, they’ll be good to go live,” he said.

Underage Betting Regulation Approved

The MGC also followed through today on the approval of an emergency regulation that sets guardrails for control of underage sports betting. 

The approved regulation states that all sports wagering operators must have policies and procedures in place to prevent anyone under age 21 from betting on sports, including betting via sports betting kiosk. Operators must also submit a written plan to the MGC that outlines all plans to keep minors and underage young adults from betting on sports by kiosk or otherwise. 

A vote on the regulation was delayed Nov. 10 after a couple of commissioners asked that the reg be redrafted to do more to prevent underage betting.

The concern centered on what the commissioners felt was the potential for underage sports betting by kiosks at horse racing facilities especially.

Massachusetts allows betting on horses starting at age 18. Only those bettors who are age 21 and older can bet on sports in the commonwealth. 

Mass Sports Betting Application Deadline on Nov. 21

Last week’s decision to delay a vote on the regulation isn’t expected to interfere with the Bay State’s sports betting launch timeline. 

Applications from operators vying for a January or March launch date are due at the MGC by Monday, Nov. 21. 

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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