BetMGM Found ‘Suitable’ for Massachusetts Mobile License; Barstool Remains Under Scutiny

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BetMGM is the second mobile sports betting app to pass muster with Massachusetts state regulators ahead of the state’s mobile launch planned for early March.

The app was found suitable for a mobile license by state regulators Monday night after a marathon hearing that resulted in preliminary approval of licensing of BetMGM and approval of a retail sportsbook license for the app’s casino partner MGM Springfield.

Unlike WynnBET — which was awarded a full mobile sportsbook license last week by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission –BetMGM was found suitable for a temporary license that will allow the sportsbook to launch when Massachusetts mobile sports betting goes live in March.

Like WynnBet, BetMGM had specific conditions placed on approval of its application for licensure. BetMGM must “provide timely and ongoing updates regarding any developments to two confidential investigations first reported to the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau on December 16, 2022,” according to a press release from MGC. “Additionally, BetMGM must provide the MGC with a vendor diversity list.”

Caesars Sportsbook is expected to be the next mobile sportsbook to be approved by the MGC. The commission plans to take up Caesars’ application at a scheduled hearing tomorrow. Both Caesars and WynnBet apps will be tied, or tethered, to the Encore Boston Harbor casino. Encore was awarded the state’s first retail sportsbook license earlier this month.

MGM Springfield Awarded a Retail Sports Betting License

MGM Springfield will use BetMGM for its in-person betting platform slated for launch in late January. It is partnering with BetMGM on the separately licensed mobile app.

MGM had its retail sports betting application deferred by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Dec. 7, based largely on what commissioners saw as crossover between the retail and BetMGM mobile licensing applications. Massachusetts law requires a retail sportsbook license be awarded before any mobile license tethered to that retail sportsbook location can be awarded. 

“We have updated the application based on the commission’s input,” said MGM Resorts International attorney Jed Nosal before today’s vote on the license for MGM Springfield. “We have incorporated some of the public presentation into the application (from the previous hearing) for completeness. We have also incorporated as requested specific information regarding BetMGM’s platform, to the extent that it pertains to MGM Springfield’s retail application.”

Nosal said the retail application “is precise in describing the relationship between MGM Springfield and BetMGM for the retail sportsbook, including all final decisions regarding the retail sportsbook by the (retail) applicant that is in front of you today.” Information requested by the commission on both testing of the wagering platform and kiosks and monitoring of sports betting operations was also supplied by MGM Springfield today as part of the licensing process.

 

MGM Springfield casino
MGM Springfield  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Relationship Between MGM Springfield, BetMGM Revisited

The commission briefly revisited the relationship between the casino and BetMGM again today before it awarded a retail sports betting license to MGM Springfield. The discussion surfaced when questions were raised by Commissioners Eileen O’Brien and Nakisha Skinner about sharing of patron data between the two entities and an undisclosed “ongoing investigation,” ultimately requiring discussion in an executive session.

Nosal tried to publicly clarify the relationship before the two issues were eventually discussed — and resolved — in executive session. He said BetMGM is a service provider, much like a company that provides slot machines to a casino.

He also clarified that BetMGM is not being licensed for retail sports betting at MGM Springfield.

“It’s something you’d have to be comfortable with as the vendor for MGM Springfield, in connection with sports betting,” he said.

Barstool’s Suitability Under Scrutiny With Plainridge Park Casino Up Next

The third casino expected to be licensed for retail sports betting in Massachusetts is Plainridge Park Casino, owned by Penn Entertainment. The Boston-area racino had its retail application deferred by the MGC on Dec. 6 after questions surfaced about the suitability of Penn Interactive/Barstool Sports, one of Plainridge Park’s two mobile sportsbook partners. The casino told the MGC earlier this month that it plans to brand its retail sportsbook with the Barstool name. 

The MGC questioned the suitability of Barstool after commissioners flagged a Nov. 20 New York Times expose on Barstool founder David Portnoy titled Desperate for Growth, Aging Casino Company Embraced ‘Degenerate Gambler’.

Barstool is also drawing some regulatory heat in Ohio, where state regulators intend to find the company at least $250,000 for holding a tailgate event near the University of Toledo football stadium on Nov. 15. The sportsbook faces two charges related to the event: marketing to people under 21 and advertising around a college campus, according to reports last week.

Plainridge Park Casino’s application for a retail sports betting license is expected to be revisited by the MGC on Tuesday. If awarded, the commission may then consider applications by both Penn Interactive and Fanatics for mobile licenses tethered to the casino retail license. 

Next month, the commission is expected to review seven more Massachusetts mobile sports betting licensing applications. Those include applications for six standalone mobile licenses (not tied to a retail licensee) and one app (bet365) tied to the racing simulcast facility Raynham Park.

Applications for retail sports betting at Raynham Park and the state’s other simulcast facility at Suffolk Downs will be accepted on a rolling basis.

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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