Massachusetts lawmakers satisfied most stakeholders this week with their final sports betting product.
Casinos, horse racing interests and online sportsbooks couldn’t ask for much more from the MA sports betting legislation.
However, Massachusetts professional sports teams were left pleased but not satisfied with the bill signed into law this week.
Rep. Jerald Parisella and Sen. Patrick O’Connor, two members of the sports betting conference committee, spoke to PlayMA about why they didn’t grant licensing opportunities to sports teams.
Sports teams lack structure for sports betting
Executives of five Massachusetts pro sports teams and the PGA Tour sent a letter to the conference committee.
They asked lawmakers to make available 10 Category 2 licenses permitting the operation of a sports wagering facility and one mobile platform. The letter also requested the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to give pro sports teams preference on Category 2 licenses.
States such as Ohio, Arizona and Virginia allow teams to get sports betting licenses.
Instead, the conference committee limited Category 2 licenses to two existing horse racing betting facilities. Two additional licenses are available for potential future horse racetrack developments.
The overall bill sets aside three licenses for casinos, up to four for racetracks and seven untethered mobile licenses. O’Connor commented:
“We had to cap licenses at some point. I would have loved to see more licenses out there, but we needed to strike a deal. It made sense for our casinos to get it. And the two racetracks were in the House bill. They were a big priority over there. We thought it made sense that they would be good recipients considering the structure they have in place.”
The Senate legislation gave them the best hope for direct participation. It included six Category 2 licenses for which sports teams could apply. But the conference committee took more of the structure from the House bill. Parisella said:
“The bill the passed in the House is for the most part what ended up getting passed in the conference committee. We felt like casinos and racetracks had already been vetted for retail operations, so they could probably get up and running sooner than the teams.”
Sports teams still get opportunities from sports betting
Red Sox executive VP David Friedman previously told PlayMA that sports teams were still happy with the MA sports betting passage.
While the bill doesn’t provide licenses, it provides opportunities to gain revenue from sports betting sponsorships.
The legislation also mandates that operators use official league data for in-game wagers. O’Connor noted:
“Leagues got data, which was a huge priority for them. There’s opportunities for sports teams to create strategic partnerships with digital skins and potential brick-and-mortars if one of the teams wanted to do that.”
MA lawmakers could add licenses for sports teams
Both Parisella and O’Connor left the door open for the legislature to reconsider licensing for sports teams in future legislation. Parisella said:
“It’s something we can potentially look at in the future. We just felt this was the best way to go about it at this time.”
O’Connor said that if the MA horse racing industry didn’t expand, he could see the legislature sending those unused licenses to sports teams. There’s also a study included in the bill to look into putting sports betting kiosks at bars and restaurants, which could be located adjacent to stadiums. In the meantime, O’Connor remains optimistic:
“I think there’s still an opportunity for sports teams to be involved at some point in time. We left a couple licenses available for horse racetracks when the industry reemerges in Massachusetts. If that doesn’t happen in a few years, maybe we go back and give those licenses to sports teams.”