With Massachusetts sports betting set to launch in early 2023, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is currently reviewing the 15 applications of hopeful Massachusetts sportsbooks.
For the major sportsbook brands, this license review process is more a formality than anything else.
The only thing that can keep them out of the market is a low cap on available licensees.
For example, New Hampshire selected one sportsbook brand to partner with the state lottery to offer mobile and retail sports betting. DraftKings was the winner, leaving competing brands like FanDuel and BetMGM out of the state.
In Oregon, DraftKings is also the official provider of the state lottery. Since Oregon sports betting is run by the lottery, DraftKings has its own market there, too.
Connecticut only launched its sports betting industry with three licenses, and two of them went to DraftKings and FanDuel.
Elsewhere, most of the major sportsbooks make it into the same markets. Aside from the lottery-run sports betting states, DraftKings and FanDuel have secured licenses in the same states. Brands like BetMGM, BetRivers, and Caesars Sportsbook are in many of the same states, too.
However, license rejections do happen sometimes. It’s just not these major brands that get rejected.
On Tuesday, for instance, the MGC delayed a vote on Plainridge Park Casino’s retail sports betting license until next week because of concerns involving responsible gaming, as well as the casino’s relationship with PENN Gaming and Barstool Sports — namely Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy
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Rejected Sports Betting License Cases
Established brands have important advantages over scrappier startups. Large brands can afford to hire law firms that specialize in gambling compliance and licensing. The large brands also have experience with application processes across the US.
Fubo Sportsbook was less lucky in its Illinois application. Lineups reported that Fubo’s sports betting license application was rejected in Illinois because a “key player” was ineligible for a license. That indicates an issue that came up in the executive background check. Fubo already had licenses in three states, showing the differences across states in licensing standards even when they follow the same steps.
SportsHandle reported a case where Online Track Limited applied for a minor vendor license in Colorado. Regulators rejected this company’s license application for referring customers to sportsbook sites before getting licensed. This is illegal because it promoted gambling services without a license. Operating illegally during the licensing process is one easy way to ensure a license rejection.
Large sportsbook companies don’t make these mistakes. They do, however, occasionally get fined. In November 2022, New Jersey regulators fined Caesars Sportsbook for not paying out $27,000 in winnings on a hockey bet. For failing to pay out its $27,000, regulators fined Caesars $500.
However, there is one exception in Tennessee that has marked a regulatory milestone for American sports betting.
The First US License Suspension
In March 2021, Action 24/7 had its sports betting license revoked for failing to catch suspicious credit card fraud activity on its platform. After suing the state regulator and winning on a technicality, Action 24/7 was back online a few weeks later. In May 2021, the Tennessee Education Lottery released a statement confirming that Action 24/7’s internal controls met state standards.
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It’s hard for an American sportsbook to lose its license. The sportsbooks that receive licenses in the first place are vetted to ensure they can pay winnings. Their executive teams have also gone through background checks to ensure they don’t have any money laundering or other criminal convictions. That doesn’t eliminate every shortcoming, but it’s unsurprising to see the same sportsbooks get the few licenses available.
When Massachusetts awards sports betting licenses, the major brands that apply will almost certainly receive licenses. Lesser-known brands will still likely get licenses, but there’s a small chance they can be rejected.
These are the 15 companies to apply for sports betting licenses in Massachusetts:
- Caesars Sportsbook
- PENN Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook)
- Bally Bet
- Fanatics Sportsbook
- Encore Boston Harbor (retail)
- MGM Springfield (retail)
- Plainridge Park Casino (retail)
If there’s room for a licensee in Massachusetts, that licensee will probably get a license.
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