Less than 24 hours after the governor put pen to paper, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was at work Thursday in moving the sports betting process forward.
No launch timeline updates were discussed during the regular meeting and a roundtable discussion was set for next week, inviting representatives from current land-based licensees.
Massachusetts sports betting became legal Wednesday with the approval of Gov. Charlie Baker. But bettors will have to wait a bit longer for wagering to go live in the state, perhaps missing the entire upcoming football season.
The commissioners did once again promise a transparent and fair process.
“Our work with ultimate licensees will be swift and thorough, and we will keep everyone — all stakeholders and the public — apprised every step of the way,” MGC chairperson Cathy Judd-Stein said. “We know that you are all eager for an exact timeline, and development of that is responsibly underway.”
Preparations for progress made by gaming commission
Executive Director Karen Wells proposed a number of measures that were met with affirmation from commissioners at the meeting. These include requiring online operators to file a notice of intent soon before the formal application process and allowing vendors to apply for temporary licenses to jumpstart processes.
In addition, Wells said her staff is developing a landing page for sports betting rollout information on the commission’s website.
“We’ll look at rolling that out in short order,” Wells said.
MGC staff, led by Wells, put together a proposed process for the rollout of sports betting while legislation was pending. The draft plan shared by staff to commissioners last week, before Baker signed the bill, had a timeline of five months from application rollout to finalization. Staff also shared observations from other state rollouts, lasting somewhere between three and six months.
“Without a law in place, their work could only be based on prediction and not science,” Judd-Stein said. “This early legwork has positioned the commission well for today’s additional responsibility.”
The high end of that timeline puts football season in jeopardy, as Super Bowl LVII will be played Feb. 12, 2023, exactly six months from Friday.
‘Now it’s time to get to work’ on MA sports betting
In preparation for sports betting’s legalization, the MGC made an effort to examine the regulatory framework of various other jurisdictions. The commission has also included studies within their annual research agenda to examine the social and economic impact of sports wagering.
Commission members said they’re eager to move forward with a plan now that the industry is officially legal. Wells applauded Baker for his noteworthy decision, adding “now it’s time to get to work.”
One of the first steps in creating a MA sports betting framework will be for the MGC to hire a dedicated director of sports wagering, which the commission approved. The job description will be posted shortly, Wells said.
Additionally, the commission will require applicants to file a notice of intent before officially beginning the application process. This notice of intent will be helpful in uncovering the initial landscape of interest that surrounds Massachusetts sports betting.
There will be 15 licenses available for MA online sports betting operators, including seven to be awarded by the commission in a competitive process. The other eight will be awarded licenses after partnering with state casinos or simulcast betting facilities.
Retail operators invited to sports betting roundtable discussion
The MGC briefly deliberated about whether retail and online sports betting would launch simultaneously in Massachusetts. But naturally, the state’s retail gambling operators have a leg up in the sports betting application process. And they’ll also be the first to the table.
These decisions will ultimately be left up to the commission, though they’re hoping for some of these questions to resolve themselves as soon as next week.
The MGC will reconvene Thursday, Aug. 18 to hold the first of several roundtables to begin dialoguing the process with existing licensees. For this initial roundtable, the commission has invited the state’s 5 current retail operators to discuss a range of topics centered around each brand’s plans for sports wagering.
Those operators are:
- Encore Boston Harbor
- MGM Springfield
- Plainridge Park
- Raynham Park simulcast
- Suffolk Downs simulcast
Additional roundtables will take place in the coming weeks to highlight topics including online sports betting, responsible gaming and advertising.
PlayMyWay program up and running at Plainridge Park
The MGC also got an update from the state’s casinos, which continue to make a post-COVID comeback.
Massachusetts Research and Responsible Gaming director Mark Vander Linden provided an update on the state’s unique PlayMyWay program. The program, which aids in the mitigation and prevention of gambling-related harms, has been in effect at Plainridge Park since 2016.