Penn National, Wynn Resorts Lobby For Control Of Massachusetts Sports Betting

Posted on November 12, 2020

At least two of the casino operators in Massachusetts are against state politicians simply handing sports betting to any operation but themselves.

Leaders of Penn National and Wynn Resorts‘ two casinos in the state penned a joint letter in late October that called for most sports betting licenses to be under their control, according to State House News Service:

“Those that make actual investments in Massachusetts, assume legitimate risk, and incur costs to provide a service or benefit in the Commonwealth should be enfranchised under this legislation. Conversely, automatic windfalls to industries or interests which assume no new costs, risks or obligations as a result of this type of expansion are not only harmful to the gaming industry’s interests but even more so to overall public interest.”

There’s still an outside chance to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts this year, though 2021 seems like a more realistic target. Sports betting was tacked onto an economic development bill over the summer and handily passed in the House. The Senate, however, felt it wasn’t the time or place to address the issue.

The final details of the bill fall on a six-person panel. Private negotiations have been underway for months.

Penn and Wynn want casinos to control most of Massachusetts sports betting

The joint letter from Plainridge Park GM Lance George and Encore Boston Harbor President Brian Gullbrants suggested the state’s three casino operators, which also includes MGM Resorts, get three sports betting licenses each.

That would authorize each to roll out their own platforms while revenue sharing with two other partners. Penn National operates Barstool Sportsbook and MGM operates BetMGM. Wynn’s platform isn’t as recognizable yet — it will be WynnBet — but finally has its own business segment to boost the brand.

Under the House’s proposal, each casino would have the right to launch its own sportsbook. The bill also authorized four untethered licenses. DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook would each get one license.

Two others would be available, but not to just anyone. Sportsbooks would be required to have operations running in at least two states for at least a year to qualify.

Casino proposal does give DraftKings a license

The letter hits on a bit of a hypocritical note when it talks about investments in the state.

DraftKings, founded in 2012, has always been a Massachusetts business and opened a new headquarters last year.

The hypocrisy is finally realized, though. The letter mentions any sportsbook operator “that is headquartered in Massachusetts and has a majority of their employees located in the Commonwealth” could get a license as well. That only authorizes DraftKings.

Massachusetts needs to act on sports betting now, letter says

Outside influences from New Hampshire and Rhode Island mean Massachusetts needs to get working now, according to the letter:

“Sports wagering expansion by our neighboring states substantially affects the competitive posture of the gaming industry here in the Commonwealth and places us at a strong disadvantage, with Massachusetts jobs, revenues and economic activity at stake.”

Sports betting in Rhode Island launched in 2018 and went mobile in 2019, but required in-person registration. That was stripped in July, though, which led to a significant uptick in accounts.

DraftKings, meanwhile, has a monopoly on mobile NH sports betting that went live last December.

That means it’s under an hour’s drive from downtown Boston to either state border to legally bet.

Photo by Charles Krupa / The Associated Press
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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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