As the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) races to enact regulatory guidelines for the 2023 launch of MA sports betting, casinos and mobile betting apps are taking center stage.
There are three categories of operators who can offer sports betting in Massachusetts. The state’s three retail casinos fall under category 1, while online sportsbooks are category 3. Category 2 includes licensed horse tracks and simulcast centers already in the state: Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs.
With a large customer base and the ability to tap into the billion-dollar online sports betting market, it’s no surprise that category 1 and 3 operators have garnered the most attention. Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield both plan to offer retail and online sportsbooks.
Earlier this fall on Oct. 6, the MGC put a hold on discussions about sports betting at simulcast centers and horse tracks. With scant attention paid to these potential sports operators, MGC Commissioner Eileen O’Brien voiced concerns about the MGC putting the licensing process for Category 2 operators on the back burner. The discussions resumed this month with input from the existing simulcast centers.
Timeline And Fee Differences
The application timeline for Category 2 betting platforms is different than that for casinos and mobile operators. The latter two must submit a completed application by Nov. 21, along with a $200,000 processing fee. However, applications for Category 2 operators will be accepted on a rolling basis.
Both Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs have completed initial paperwork to indicate interest in offering sports betting by submitting a mandatory scoping survey. Category 2 operators will have to pay a $5 million licensing fee that allows them to provide both retail and online sports betting. However, the mobile operator that a simulcast center partners with must hold a Category 3 license and pay a separate $5 million fee.
Partnerships With Mobile Sportsbooks Necessary
Partnering with an existing sportsbook is necessary for both Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs. The operators are still in the process of finding suitable partners to provide retail and mobile sports betting. They have yet to be able to give the MGC concrete answers regarding potential partners and when they will finalize deals.
Suffolk Downs is searching for a location to host its retail sportsbook operations. Meanwhile, Raynham Park is building a gaming facility to host retail sports betting after demolishing its current simulcast building. It will include a large gaming area with theater seating, a bank of TV screens, automated betting kiosks, and in-person tellers.
Will There Be A Third Category 2 Operator?
The Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center in Hardwick also submitted initial paperwork to offer sports betting at a new racetrack. Still in the planning stages, plans call for the center to be on the grounds of the 360-acre Great Meadowbrook Farm. But the fate of the racetrack is in the hands of the local government and residents.
While the Hardwick Board of Selectmen rejected Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center’s proposal in late October, they reversed their decision on Nov. 9. Hardwick residents who disapproved of the project filed a petition on Nov. 14 with the town’s clerk in protest. The MGC was set to discuss the proposed racetrack on the same day in an adjudicatory hearing. However, when news of the petition reached the commissioners, the MGC suspended the hearing.
Hardwick officials will meet again to vote on the project. If they approve it once more, the town will hold a special election allowing voters to make the final decision.
As of now, even with uncertainties over locations and mobile betting partnerships, Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs are the only Category 2 operators with a realistic chance of offering sports betting at some point in 2023.